Last week, over 100 protesters marched from Fort Greene Park to Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo’s office on Hanson Place to urge the councilwoman to “kill the deal.”
“The armory should be 100 percent affordable,” said Donna Mossman, founder of the Crown Heights Tenant Union. “If you can put 30 homeless shelters in our community, give those people a place to live.”
Housing advocates believe developments like this one will just exacerbate the homeless crisis in the city.
“Nobody can afford to live in Crown Heights,” Mossman added. “The tenants who are homeless are homeless because they cannot afford $2,500 a month rent.”
Developer BFC Partners plans to build 330 units of housing and a community recreation center. About half of the units will fit the definition of affordable, but opponents contend even those won’t be affordable to people currently living in Crown Heights.
Specifically, 67 units will be set aside for renters that make less than 50 percent of the area median income, or $36,250 for a family of two, and the rest at 110 percent of area median income, or $75,000 for a family of two.
BFC Partners, despite losing a development partner, a high-profile endorsement from Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony and all of the community backlash, continues to move forward with the project.
“BFC is fully committed to revitalizing the Bedford-Union Armory and providing much-needed recreational facilities, affordable housing and affordable office space for the Crown Heights community,” a spokesperson for the developer said.
BFC also touted a new partnership with 32BJ SEIU, one of the largest labor unions in the county.
“Our partnership with 32BJ SEIU will create good union jobs at the armory and provide a new job training program that gives Crown Heights residents a real path to building middle-class careers,” the spokesperson said.
BFC argues that the economic realities of cross-subsidizing a new recreation center and the lack of housing subsidies means that 50 percent affordability is the only option available.
At Cumbo's district office, her chief of staff invited a few of the leaders of the march up to speak with the councilwoman, but they opted instead to seek a larger meeting.
“It was unfortunate to learn that our invitation to meet was denied, as I hoped that we could have heard from the coalition leaders to keep communications open and flowing,” Cumbo said in a statement.
She said she supported the right of opponents of the project to protest.
"I want to acknowledge the tremendous voices that came out last week to pronounce their aspirations for bettering the community,” she said. “I believe that nonviolent actions and peaceful protests are an essential tool to bring people together.”