CROWN HEIGHTS — Councilmember Laurie Cumbo will not support the Bedford-Union Armory redevelopment if it doesn’t include more affordable housing, she said — but getting it may depend on what the Trump administration does to the city budget, she told residents at a public meeting about the project Thursday night.
At the forum, Cumbo explained to a crowd of Crown Heights locals — many of whom vocally demanded she push for more housing for low- and middle-income people — she was not ready to support the project in its current form.
“If not vastly different, we’re not proceeding forward,” she said to the audience at Medgar Evers College where she gave a status update on the project aiming to turn the vacant former military facility on Bedford Avenue into a recreation center, apartments and condominiums.
Currently, half of the 330 rental apartments on the site would be affordable, but only 20 percent are set aside for households within the range of area median incomes in Crown Heights, Cumbo said.
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As it stands now, the developer on the project, BFC Partners, is not receiving subsidies from the city for housing on the site and says the group won’t include more affordable housing there without it; a spokesman for the company said 50 percent is “the only option currently available at the armory.” That leaves city funding to cover any addition affordable units built there.
And that, Cumbo said, depends on the new president.
“The challenge that we have right now is that we’re in the middle of budget negotiations. The mayor came out with his preliminary plan. With the Trump administration that has come in, we are reducing the budget significantly,” she said, referring to federal funding for housing.
“So, we’re looking to try and push forward as much of the housing investment and subsidy as we possibly can, but I’ll be honest with you, in this current climate things have changed … dramatically,” she added.
It’s unclear in what way the city budget may be affected by the new administration.
Asked Friday to comment on Cumbo's remarks, City Hall officials deferred to the Economic Development Corporation, which has "heard loud and clear" the community's desire for additional affordable housing, EDC spokesman Anthony Hogrebe said.
"We look forward to continued conversation about this project with the Council Member and other community leaders," he said in a statement.
Previously, the mayor said he set aside a reserve fund inside the city's $84.67 billion preliminary budget in case Trump cuts federal funding.
While housing advocates can't say how the armory specifically will be impacted, "across-the-board" cuts to affordable housing are expected, said Rachel Fee, executive director of the New York Housing Conference, an affordable housing advocacy group.
In particular, Fee expects federal cuts to funding for Section 8, public housing and changes to tax credits and tax-exempt bonds, all of which help subsidize housing in the city.
“At this stage, we are expecting that we will be negatively impacted, but we don’t know exactly what the proposal will be or the degree of impact yet," she said, adding that almost all affordable projects depend on federal financing programs.
Cumbo said Mayor Bill de Blasio would answer questions about the armory project in a to-be-scheduled public form, sometime in late February or early March.
The councilmember herself answered tough questions at the meeting, where some attendees from the Crown Heights Tenant Union handed out flyers asking attendees to “tell Laurie Cumbo to vote no” on the project and others heckled and criticized Cumbo as she spoke.
In response, the councilmember was clear: the project would need more affordable housing to get her vote, and the city needs to help make that happen.
“For the city to have no investment other than the land is unacceptable,” she said.
She stressed she sees herself as “the negotiator” in the process and reminded the audience there’s still a long way to go; the year-long Uniform Land Use Review Procedure needed to greenlight the armory’s redevelopment has not even started yet.
In fact, a scoping meeting necessary to take place before ULURP can begin was rescheduled by the EDC last week at the request of Cumbo and Brough President Eric Adams to give "ample and sufficient notice" to residents who want to take part in the meeting, they said in a joint statement.
“It’s nowhere near decided,” she said at the meeting.
The armory repurposing has been under scrutiny for months from advocates and elected officials. Most recently, four Crown Heights officials filed paperwork last week to force the city to release financial details of the project, including how much the developer would profit from the deal.