Last week, residents, affordable housing advocates and union workers rallied against plans to convert the Bedford-Union Armory into a mixed-use building. Their cries of “Kill the Deal”
were chanted outside the Jackie Robinson school off Franklin Avenue. Locals argued that the city owned property should be converted into a community land trust, in which it would be owned by a community-controlled nonprofit. As reported by the Real Deal, protesters asserted that if the land is turned over to a private developer, who is to say that the affordable housing commitments will be kept. “The option is not just finding another developer, said real estate attorney Sylvia Kinard. “We need to make sure that this property, this public resource stays a resource for the community.”
Towards the end of 2015, the city announced that the century old structure would be converted into a mixed use commercial and housing building. BFC Partners, the project’s current developer, plans to convert the 542,000-square-foot former military building into 330 affordable and market-rate rentals, with community space. There will be 177 low- and moderate-income units. The developer has vowed to set aside $500,000 or more from the sale of 56 condos, to a fund to help build affordable housing in another Crown Heights location. Management of that fund will be the responsibility of the Local Development Corporation of Crown Heights.
The problem is that Affordability is defined by the city based on the median income of the New York City region, including the wealthier outlying Westchester and Putnam counties. While the Average Median Income for New York is currently $90,600 for a family of four, in 2014 the median household income in south Crown Heights was only $41,870, according to the NYU Furman Center. Basically only the 18 units targeted for the lowest income bracket would be affordable for the average family in Crown Heights. Further, only 30 percent of the units will be permanently affordable. Members of the union Local 79 also spoke out, urging developers to hire union laborers on the project.
"What we need here is real affordable housing. Not a percentage, not a couple of units. We also need union jobs!" said Kimberly Grant, a Crown Heights resident and a member of the construction union. "This rec center sounds great, it looks good on paper, but this is not going to be something free for the community. This is not for our children. Our children can't play now, and they're not going to be able to play there."
By: Helen Zaboulani