The City Council has approved the redevelopment plan for the Bedford Union Armory in Crown Heights, a plan that would transform the armory into a sports and recreation center and add the development of a 414-unit condominium project, with 250 of those units earmarked as low-income housing, as well as office space for non-profits. The project would be a public/private partnership between the NYC Economic Development Corp. (NYCEDC) and BFC Partners, a private development company. The plan seems worthwhile, but like all development projects both public and private, there are (at least) as many against as there are for the project.
On paper, including in the architects’ renderings, it’s a great use of the armory space, with basketball courts, a soccer field, and a swimming pool on (and in) the former military assembly floor. This would be paid for by the city. The city, though, would make money from the sale of the condos, which would defray the cost of the recreation center. However, many local residents see the project as a new phase of gentrification that could put their futures in the area at risk. Some politicians and advocacy groups feel it is inappropriate to turn city-owned property over to for-profit companies to make millions from.
In mid-November, the Legal Aid Society filed a lawsuit against the project. Their public statement said, “From the start, this project has been flawed and offers little relief for the residents of a neighborhood that’s suffering from gentrification and skyrocketing rents. …Land that is fully owned by the public should serve an exclusive public purpose. Until the Bedford Union Armory development plan reflects that, we will continue to oppose it on behalf of our clients and other low-income New Yorkers who are in desperate need of affordable and permanent housing.
Despite the lawsuit, the approval by the City Council this month puts the project one step closer to becoming a reality. There are many more steps to be taken. Stay tuned.