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Pols Demand Financials for Armory Deal After City Refuses to Share Details

 A rendering of the Bedford-Union Armory redevelopment shows the building with added apartments and condominiums. The project would also create a 35,000-square-foot recreation center inside the building's domed former drill hall.
A rendering of the Bedford-Union Armory redevelopment shows the building with added apartments and condominiums. The project would also create a 35,000-square-foot recreation center inside the building's domed former drill hall.
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Bedford Courts LLC

CROWN HEIGHTS — As the city moves forward with a controversial redevelopment of its century-old Bedford-Union Armory building, a group of local elected officials have filed paperwork to force the city to reveal who stands to make money on the proposed deal, and how much.

Four elected representatives of Crown Heights filed a Freedom of Information Law FOIL request to the city’s Economic Development Corporation on Thursday to see the financials for the renovation of the vacant former military facility, which has been under city control since 2013.

The FOIL — which gives members of the public the legal right to access government documents and records — was filed after the officials said the city rebuffed their “repeated requests” for financial information in the past.

 The Bedford-Union Armory opened in 1903 and operated as a military facility through 2011. The city acquired the vacant property in 2013.
The Bedford-Union Armory opened in 1903 and operated as a military facility through 2011. The city acquired the vacant property in 2013.
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DNAinfo/Rachel Holliday Smith

Current plans for the 138,00-square-foot building on Bedford Avenue and Union Street would allow developers at BFC Partners to build a recreation facility inside the armory; market-rate and affordable rental apartments on top of the existing structure; and a row of private condominiums BFC would own and, presumably, sell.

In their Jan. 24 letter sent to the EDC, Rep. Yvette Clarke, state Sen. Jesse Hamilton and Assemblymembers Walter Mosley and Diana Richardson say they need more information on the project, not just for themselves, but for the public, as well.

“It is vital that the community gets the opportunity to make a reasonable assessment of this project to determine if they are getting a fair shake,” said Richardson in a statement.

The query asks for a wide scope of documents, most notably the “project profits to the developer,” details on “any benefits that the EDC is offering” to BFC and any correspondence between the agency and the developer regarding Slate Property Group, the previous co-developer on the project that has since dropped out.

FOIL staff at the EDC are reviewing the letter, the agency said, but some of the requested information — such as details of the project’s timeline, projected revenue and expenses and penalties for the developer if they don’t fulfill certain terms — have been shared with the elected officials before, according to the EDC.

“We have met extensively with both elected leaders and community members at every stage of the process, and have consistently shared relevant details of the project,” said EDC spokesman Anthony Hogrebe. “We are always happy to engage in additional conversations, and look forward to ultimately delivering much needed community and recreational space for Crown Heights.”

A spokesman for BFC Partners declined to comment.

Notably absent from the letter are the two local officials who have approval power over the project, Councilmember Laurie Cumbo and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who will review the plans as part of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, set to begin this spring.

When asked about the FOIL request, a spokesman for Adams said the borough president is in support of the public knowing the financial specifics of the redevelopment, but stopped short of saying Adams supports the armory project. A request for comment from Cumbo was not returned.

Late Wednesday, Adams and Cumbo issued a joint statement not about the FOIL request, but applauding the postponement of a public scoping hearing for the armory redevelopment originally set by the EDC to take place on Thursday, Jan. 26.

"This process should not be hurried in order to ensure the inclusion of diverse ideas and perspectives, from beginning to end," they wrote.

In recent months, the project has been beset by problems, beginning with the backing out of developer Slate following protests of the group by local housing advocates and tenant groups. A short time later, Knicks star Carmelo Anthony dropped support for the project, as well.

Since then, the merits of the project have been debated in a series of open letters, community meetings and editorials written for and against the plan.

In October, the same group of elected officials who signed the FOIL request penned a letter to the EDC saying the armory should have 100 percent affordable housing, among other things. Within weeks, Councilmember Cumbo published a letter supporting the project and asking for unity.

In recent weeks, the editorial board of Crain’s came out in support of the redevelopment, saying “it's time to think bigger in Crown Heights.” In response, Clarke, Hamilton, Mosley and Richardson reiterated their demands for the project; at the same time, a group of residents who lead youth programs in Brooklyn wrote their own letter supporting the project, particularly the recreation center.