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'They'll Keep an Open Mind,' Mayor Says of Crown Heights Pols on Armory

 Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at length about the controversial Bedford-Union Armory in Crown Heights at an unrelated press conference Wednesday.
Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at length about the controversial Bedford-Union Armory in Crown Heights at an unrelated press conference Wednesday.
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DNAinfo/Allegra Hobbs

CROWN HEIGHTS — The mayor thinks elected officials will “keep an open mind” about the controversial Bedford-Union Armory, days after protesters shut down a public hearing on the proposed development amid stiff opposition to the project.

Mayor Bill de Blasio reminded critics on Wednesday that the idea for the Crown Heights redevelopment originally came from “a vision of equality” between the neighborhood and Park Slope, another area with a repurposed armory.

“A lot of people said in Crown Heights when they saw the Park Slope armory get done — which is an amazing recreation center for the community — they said, why is that not happening in our community, too?” he said at an unrelated press conference on Wednesday.

“Literally, this is a fulfillment of, I think, a vision of equality to say, Crown Heights deserves a world-class recreation center, too,” he continued.

The development would turn the city-held former military building on Bedford Avenue into a recreation center with 330 market-rate and affordable apartments and approximately 56 condominiums.

The plan, in the works since its unveiling in late 2015, has been criticized and protested for months by residents and activists. Facing pressure, local Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo and Borough President Eric Adams announced they would not support the project, just weeks before the Crown Heights community board voted overwhelmingly to reject the plan.

On Monday night, activists stormed out of and shut down a public hearing hosted by Adams at Brooklyn Borough Hall as part of a land use review to approve a rezoning needed by the city for the armory plan to proceed.

When asked what City Hall should do moving forward to get support for the project — particularly from elected officials in Crown Heights — de Blasio said, “we have to do a better job of explaining to people what the benefits are for the community.”

He also suggested that negotiations with the armory's developer, BFC Partners, could lead to changes with the project — and a possible change of heart from Cumbo and Adams.

“We’re going to continue to push the developer to make the project as good as it can be for the community. And, look, I work very closely with the borough president and the councilmember. Those are ongoing discussions. I respect their position, but I also believe that if that project continues to evolve, that they’ll keep an open mind,” the mayor said.

Adams and Cumbo have previously said the biggest sticking point in the project plan are the luxury condominiums planned to be built on the armory’s south side.

However, BFC Partners and the New York Economic Development Corporation, which oversees the project, have both said the sale of those units would help pay for the armory’s recreation center and, without them, the project may not be financially feasible.