Controversial Bedford Union Armory Project Gets City Council Approval
The City Council has voted through the embattled plan to redevelop the Bedford Union Armory in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, marking the end of the two-year-long saga punctuated by protests and charges of gentrification.
The council voted to approve the project 43 to 2, with one abstention from Councilmember Jumaane Williams. Developer BFC Partners will build 400 rentals, 250 of which would rent for below-market rates to families earning between $25,000 and $57,000. Ten percent of those units would be reserved for people leaving the homeless shelter system. The remaining 150 would be market-rate apartments, which will generate the revenue needed to run a planned 68,000-square-foot recreational center.
The city has required BFC to offer $1.3 million in community benefits annually, largely in the form of $10-a-person recreation center memberships to neighborhood residents and discounted rents for several local nonprofits.
Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo, who represents Crown Heights and a few other central Brooklyn neighborhoods, had pledged to oppose the original version of the plan earlier this year, because it included condominium units and didn’t offer enough housing that would be affordable to the neighborhood. Then last week, she was able to negotiate a deal that secured $50 million in affordable housing funding from the New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development and the New York City Housing Development Corporation. The new subsidy allowed her to cut condos from the plan and incorporate more low-income housing than the original proposal from BFC.
“We’re in the middle of the largest housing crisis we’ve ever known,” Cumbo said during the vote. “I fought with my colleagues to make sure we ended luxury condominiums.” Defending the inclusion of market-rate units as a way to pay for the rec center, she added, “I wish that there was another way to pay for things but other than to pay for things.”
Councilwoman Inez Barron, who was one of the “no” votes, said that the city should have done more to build 100 percent affordable housing on the city-owned site. “We are not taking full advantage of providing housing to the most needy,” she said. “We could have established a community land trust, and we could have seen how that would have been a model going forward for the city.”
The City Council vote was the final approval in the eight-month-long land use process, and the development will go forward as planned unless the mayor decides to veto it. It also faces opposition from the Legal Aid Society, which filed a lawsuit today arguing that the city didn’t properly evaluate how many tenants would be displaced by the armory project.