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Activists Urge City to 'Kill the Deal' to Develop Bedford-Union Armory

 Vaughn Armour of New York Communities for Change, left, leads a chant at a protest outside the Bedford-Union Armory on Tuesday night. The armory may be redeveloped into house and a recreation center, right.
Vaughn Armour of New York Communities for Change, left, leads a chant at a protest outside the Bedford-Union Armory on Tuesday night. The armory may be redeveloped into house and a recreation center, right.
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Composite: DNAinfo/Rachel Holliday Smith; Bedford Courts LLC

CROWN HEIGHTS — Activists, union members and elected officials want to “kill the deal” at the Bedford-Union Armory over union labor and the politics of its developer.

Construction workers, tenant organizers and Crown Heights representatives rallied outside the Bedford Avenue armory Tuesday, railing against developer BFC Partners, the group set to repurpose the city-owned military building into a recreation center and housing.

Specifically, the protesters demanded the project be built by union workers only.

“I am not supporting this project unless we have union workers,” State Sen. Jesse Hamilton, standing with dozens of members of construction union Local 79, said to a cheering crowd.

Hamilton is one of several local elected officials who signed a letter demanding, among other things, 100 percent affordable housing at the armory. Currently, the plan for the building calls for half of 330 planned rental units to be rent subsidized.

Also at issue for protesters, including members of New York Communities for Change and the Black Institute, are the political leanings of one of BFC’s founders, Joseph Ferrera, a supporter of President-elect Donald Trump.

Based on a report about Ferrara’s politics created by the NYCC-backed “Real Gentrifiers” campaign, the protesters charged BFC with racism and white supremacy.

It’s unclear if Ferrara has ever made donations to Trump; the Real Gentrifiers report includes no mention of donations and DNAinfo New York found no conclusive information about campaign contributions from Ferrara to the president-elect.

Esteban Giron, a member of the Crown Heights Tenants Union, urged area residents to push the city to scrap the redevelopment plan, which still needs approval from the City Council and mayor before it begins, leading a chant of “kill the deal!” outside the armory.

BFC declined to comment specifically on the protester’s claims about Ferrara or any charges of racism. However, a spokesperson for the company pointed out BFC’s commitment to hiring 25 percent of “construction services” at the armory from minority and women-owned contracting firms.

“BFC is fully committed to revitalizing the Bedford-Union Armory and providing much-needed recreational facilities, affordable housing and affordable office space for the Crown Heights community. Our team continues to incorporate community feedback, as we have throughout this process, and we always welcome additional input from local stakeholders,” the company said in a statement.

This is not the first time NYCC has protested the project. In August, the group rallied against the redevelopment, calling developers from Slate Property Group — which has since dropped out of the armory project — “shady” for their involvement in the Rivington House scandal on the Lower East Side.

A short time later, Carmelo Anthony dropped his support for the recreation center after NYCC and its allies wrote an open letter to the Knicks star calling Crown Heights “ground zero for gentrification.”

Since Slate left the project, BFC is moving ahead with the redevelopment independently, continuing to make plans for future tenants, including the organizers of the West Indian Day Parade and New Heights NYC, a basketball nonprofit that will run athletic and after-school programs at the armory.

Ted Smith, direct of New Heights who spoke on behalf of the developers after Tuesday's rally said he's "really hopeful and excited" about the project, which will give his group "a home."

“We just use classroom and gym space wherever we can find it," he said. "So [the armory] will enhance our ability to grow our organization and provide a bigger impact and serve more kids."