Tensions remain high over the controversial development of the Bedford-Union Armory in Crown Heights, but today, BFC Partners, the lead developer on the project, offered up something of a salve.
The nonprofit Local Development Corporation of Crown Heights (LDCCH) has joined the development team for the project to “handle outreach and oversee a trust fund that aims to help pay for new affordable housing units in the area,” Crain’s explains. They’ll also focus on helping BFC seek out opportunities to contract with minority- and women-owned businesses. And there’s a third prong to their job: The non-profit serves as “a buffer” between the BFC and a very concerned community. Whether that will make the opposition feel any better about the project remains to be seen.
[UPDATE: In addition to affordable housing, the redevelopment will also bring affordable office space to the site. Six nonprofits have now signed on to claim some of that space: Brooklyn Community Pride Center, Digital Girl, Inc., Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy, the James E. Davis Stop the Violence Foundation, New Heights Youth, and the West Indian American Day Carnival Association. Each of these organizations lack a permanent home, but the Bedford-Union Armory will provide them with long-term leases on office space that rent below market rate. Each of the nonprofits will provide free or low-cost programming to the community.
The nonprofits will take space in the Armory’s historic head house, fronting on Bedford Avenue. The space will be updated and modernized, and will also include a new community event space with seating for 500.]
The plan is to convert the city-owned, 138,000-square-foot former National Guard armory at Bedford and Union into a mixed-use project, with 330 rentals, 60 condos, and a recreation area (which itself would include a swimming pool, three basketball courts, and an indoor soccer field). Half of those rentals are designated as “affordable,” as are 20 percent of the condos (that is, 12 of them).
But opponents argue that the apartments will not be affordable to people who already live in the neighborhood, and suggest that the plan will only accelerate gentrification. In October of last year, officials critical of the plan urged BFC to price 100 percent of the apartments below market rate, with existing neighborhood residents given preference for the vast majority of them.
That hasn’t happened. But according to Crain’s, LDCCH is hopeful that they can help “improve relations by hosting outreach meetings and creating a neighborhood advisory community to solicit input.”
“I think this is a worthwhile project for the community and our city,” LDCCH executive director Caple Spence told Crain’s, suggesting that the organization’s new role could help win over very skeptical elected officials. (Representative Yvette Clarke, state senator Jesse Hamilton, and assembly members Walter Mosley and Diana Richardson have all been vocal opponents of the plan.)
But while the newly created trust fund—to be seeded with at least $500,000 from BFC, with future funding from initial condo sales, and possibly rental income—could eventually create some amount of affordable housing in the neighborhood, it doesn’t change the breakdown of the project at hand.
“[BFC’s] remedy of adding a nonprofit partner this late in the process is like putting a Band-Aid on a tumor,” Crown Heights resident Vaughn Armour, a member of opposition group New York Communities for Change, told Crain’s. “The only way to save the Armory is to kill the project and start over.”