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City Planning Approves Bedford-Union Armory Plan as 2 Protesters Arrested

October 30, 2017 3:18pm | Updated October 30, 2017 3:18pm
A rendering for a plan to redevelop the Bedford-Union Armory in Crown Heights shows a portion of the building to become 24 townhouse-style condominiums on the President Street side of the 1903 building and a 13-story rental building to be constructed on the armory's east side.
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Bedford Courts LLC

CROWN HEIGHTS — The City Planning Commission on Monday approved a plan to repurpose the Bedford-Union Armory over community protests and concerns about the controversial redevelopment project.

The CPC voted 11 to 1 to give the 540,000-square-foot development a green light as protesters attempted to interrupt the commission’s hearing in Manhattan on Monday afternoon.

The plan still needs approval from the City Council and mayor before it's finalized.

Dozens of people opposed to the project chanted throughout the start of the hearing, forcing security staff to move them outside. Two demonstrators were arrested in the process. Jabari Brisport, the Green Party candidate for City Council, and Crown Heights Tenant Union founding member Joel Feingold were led away in handcuffs and issued civil summonses, they told DNAinfo New York.

Protesters interrupt Monday's CPC hearing on the Bedford-Union Armory before the commission voted 11 to one to approve the project.

The CPC voted minutes after the protesters were removed. Before her yes vote, CPC chairwoman Marisa Lago noted the benefits she saw in the plan for the vacant armory, including affordable recreation space and room for nonprofits and classrooms.

“But we know that an affordable community center and office space isn’t enough. So, recognizing the dire need for housing, we are pleased that this proposal is leveraging one of our city’s scarce resources, public land, to deliver 390 new homes,” she said.

Only one CPC member, Michelle de la Uz, voted against the plan, echoing concerns from activists, local elected officials and residents that the armory will not include enough affordable units. Currently, the project plan includes 330 rentals, half of which will be subsidized, and 60 condominiums, of which 12 will be available for purchase below-market, in addition to a 67,00-square-foot recreation center.

“Only 50 percent of the units are affordable on the rental side and only 20 percent on the home ownerships side," de la Uz said. "Given that this is publicly owned land, the community has come to expect more."

The CPC vote in the latest in a series of approvals as part of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP, needed by the developers of the armory, BFC Partners, before construction may begin.

After the vote, BFC spokesman Sam Spokony said in a statement the group is "committed to providing a new affordable recreation center, affordable office space for non-profits and affordable housing for the Crown Heights community."

"As the Bedford-Union Armory continues to sit vacant, this is an opportunity to make it a place that truly serves local families," he said.

So far, both the Crown Heights community board and the Brooklyn borough president have  rejected the plan as part of ULURP.

The area's councilmember, Laurie Cumbo, has come out publicly against the plan as it currently stands, taking particular issue with the plan to build condominiums on the site.

“As we move to transform the historic Bedford Union Armory into a world-class recreation center and much-needed housing, we will continue to work with Council Member Cumbo and other stakeholders to ensure this project serves the Crown Heights community,” Anthony Hogrebe, NYCEDC Senior Vice President of Public Affairs, said Monday after the vote.

The redevelopment has faced fierce opposition for months from residents and activists, who have repeatedly called on elected officials to “kill the deal.” Many worry the new complex will exacerbate rising rents and displacement of longtime tenants in Crown Heights; protestors at Monday’s hearing held signs that called the plan “planned gentrification.”

But the city has concluded the development will not make gentrification worse in the neighborhood. In an official environmental review of the project, the city found the repurposed armory would have no significant impact on displacing residents, higher rent prices, or the “neighborhood character” of Crown Heights.