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Developer Pledges $500K From Armory Condo Sales to Nonprofit for Housing

By Rachel Holliday Smith | March 2, 2017 5:45pm | Updated on March 3, 2017 5:13pm
 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 — Days before a key public meeting on the controversial Bedford-Union Armory redevelopment proposal, the developer is promising to set aside at least $500,000 from the sale of condominiums on the site to create a fund for new affordable housing elsewhere in the neighborhood.

The fund, financed by the sale of 56 condos at the armory, would be managed by the Local Development Corporation of Crown Heights, a longtime nonprofit developer of low-income and senior housing in the area. The armory's developer, BFC Partners, said Wednesday it added LDCCH as a partner on the project to help hire contractors and gather input from the community.

LDCCH has been in talks with BFC about joining the project for months, the group’s executive director, Caple Spence, told DNAinfo on Thursday.

The affordable housing fund will be overseen by BFC, LDCHH and Rev. Daryl Bloodsaw of the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights, the successor to the late Rev. Clarence Norman Sr., who founded LDCHH in 1987, Spence said.

Former Brooklyn assemblyman Clarence Norman Jr., who works as a consultant for LDCCH, was involved in bringing Bloodsaw into the fold to help oversee the funds, Spence said.

Norman Jr., who spent time in prison for taking illegal campaign contributions, will not be involved with managing the affordable housing fund, Spence said. A spokesman for the developer confirmed Norman Jr. has no role in the development.

The establishment of the fund will not change plans for the amount of affordable housing at the armory itself, which currently includes approximately 177 units of low- and moderate-income units. Instead, Spence said, all of the money will be spent on future affordable housing projects in the Crown Heights area, a fact that allows his group “to legitimately say to the community: This is what we are going to do for you."

“The trust fund money will end up going back into the development of low-income housing,” he said.

Money for the fund will come from initial sales of the 56 condominiums to be built on what is now a row of former horse stables on the President Street side of the armory building. Those stables will be demolished, representatives of the developers told residents at a meeting this week.

Additional money may be added to the fund from subsequent condominiums sales and rental income on a yearly basis, Spence said, though the final details of the agreement are still being worked out. The group will also be involved with hiring minority- and women-owned contractors for the project and forming a community advisory board to help steer the development once it's approved, the developer said.

The city's Economic Development Corporation, which oversees the armory project, said the agreement between LDCCH and BFC does not require approval from the agency.

The condos are part of a proposed 542,000-square-foot plan to convert the vacant former military building — owned and controlled by the city since 2013 — into 330 affordable and market-rate rental apartments, a recreation center and educational and community office space.

In recent months, the project has become the focus of protests and criticism from activists and residents who feel the plan should be scrapped and some elected officials who say the project should be more transparent and have 100 percent affordable housing.

Most recently, protesters gathered at the armory Saturday to urge Councilmember Laurie Cumbo — who, with the mayor and the rest of City Council, has approval power over the project — to drop support for the repurposing project, according to NY1.

On Wednesday, Cumbo said she remains critical of the project but praised the addition of LDCCH to the development team. “By heeding the demand of the community for the inclusion of local groups of color, BFC Partners has taken a step in the right direction,” she said in a statement to DNAinfo.

The addition of LDCCH to the project comes less than a week before a public scoping meeting in which residents will have their first chance to officially comment on the armory redevelopment.

That meeting, set for 6:30 p.m. on March 7 at M.S. 352 in Crown Heights, allows public comments on the “draft scope of work” used to create the Environmental Impact Statement for the project. A draft of the current project plan can be found online through the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Coordination.

The scoping meeting is a precursor to the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), a public review process used to approve or deny any development that uses public land or needs zoning changes. Before the armory redevelopment can be built, it will need approval through ULURP from the City Council and mayor.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story identified the location of the March 7 public scoping meeting as M.S. 61. The meeting will take place at M.S. 352, located at 46 McKeever Pl.