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Armory Will Not Make Gentrification Worse in Crown Heights, City Says

By Rachel Holliday Smith | October 27, 2017 3:45pm | Updated on October 30, 2017 9:44am
 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 — Ahead of a key vote by the City Planning Commission on the controversial Bedford-Union Armory redevelopment, the city has determined the project will have no significant impact on displacing residents, rising rents, or “neighborhood character” in Crown Heights.

In its final environmental impact analysis of the proposed 540,000-square-foot development, the city acknowledged “there is an observable trend towards increasing rents and property values” within the neighborhood — something protesters of the project have repeatedly pointed out, saying the project will accelerate gentrification.

But the city’s analysis of several areas of potential impact found, by and large, the development of the city-owned armory — which will include a 67,000-square-foot recreation hall, 330 rental apartments and 60 condominiums — will “not result in any significant adverse impacts” as a consequence of direct or indirect residential or business displacement, the study found.

The document, completed October 19, considered the armory development’s effect on many aspects of the neighborhood, including schools, open space, shadows, noise, parking and water usage.

Within the quarter-mile study area, the city found that overall, the development would have “unavoidable adverse impacts” in just two areas: noise and traffic from construction and a permanent uptick in vehicle traffic on Bedford Avenue.

The analysis also noted the building has been entered into the state’s Brownfield Cleanup Program after petroleum sledge and an unidentified “hard, black tar-like material” was found on in what was once the armory’s stables. Additionally, lead dust and asbestos has been partially remediated in the building after being detected in the armory’s former rifle range, the analysis found.

However, the city said the harmful substances would ultimately have no negative impact, pointing out that all remedial actions will be conducted with the approval and oversight of the state and in “compliance with the requirements of the BCP.” (Currently, there are 107 active brownfield cleanup sites ongoing in Brooklyn, according to the most recent state data.)

“With these measures in place, there would be no significant adverse impact due to the potential presence of hazardous materials,” the report said.

The analysis is part of what the City Planning Commission will consider as it decide to approve or vote down the redevelopment plan at a special hearing on Monday.

The CPC is one of several groups required to weigh in on the proposed Bedford Avenue development as part of the the city-mandated Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).

Already in ULURP, the Crown Heights community board and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams have both rejected the armory plan. Both the board and Adams took particular issue with the condominiums planned on the armory site, which would be built on a portion of the building sold off to project developers BFC Partners.

The City Council and mayor are also required to vote on the project. The area’s councilwoman, Laurie Cumbo, has been under significant pressure from activists who have been telling her to “kill the deal” for nearly a year.

Protesters took that same message to Mayor Bill de Blasio himself this week, showing up to an affordable housing press conference in Clinton Hill on Thursday. As the mayor began speaking, protesters shouted him down and held up signs urging him to nix the armory proposal. Security quickly removed the demonstrators, who continued their protest outside the event.

The Bedford-Union Armory has stood on Bedford Avenue between Union and President streets in Crown Heights since it was built in 1908. It was used as a training facility by the military through 2011 and been unused and vacant except for occasional large events since then.