Battle stations! Crown Heights wars over armory apartments

Battle stations! Crown Heights wars over armory apartments
Photo by Paul Martinka

They want to wipe the Slate clean!

Mayor DeBlasio must nix a plan to hand over the Bedford-Union Armory in Crown Heights to developer Slate Property Group, which was caught in a scandal surrounding the sale and redevelopment of a Manhattan nursing home for people with AIDS into luxury condos, say local activists who rallied in front of the building last week. The real estate firm “duped” Hizzoner on that deal and now residents can’t trust it to head the massive project in their community, one leader said.

“If you do this to the mayor, what will they do to us? We know this wasn’t done in good faith,” said Donna Mossman, co-founder of tenant association the Crown Heights Tenant Union which protested alongside housing activist group New York Communities for Change, formerly known as Acorn.

City investigators recently found the developer colluded with the former owner of Manhattan’s Rivington House hospice to hide the sale so the city would lift a deed restriction that barred it from developing the building for housing, under the pretense that the then-owner was converting it to a for-profit nursing home.

Late last year the city awarded Slate and BFC Partners a contract to transform the century-old disused weapons depot on Bedford Avenue into a mix of condos, market-rate and below-market rentals, offices, and a recreation center. The plan came after two years of negotiations with local elected officials, the community board, and local leaders, many of whom ended up supporting the project.

The city will re-examine the proposal in light of the Rivington House scandal, a mayoral spokesman said, but emphasized that nothing will move ahead until the plan has been approved through the city’s lengthy land-use review process, which requires Council’s okay and also gives the community board and Borough President a chance to weigh in.

“The project still requires multiple public approvals and we are taking a hard look at the situation,” said rep Austin Finan.

Community Board 9 has assembled a subcommittee to gauge local sentiment prior to and during the review, and will hold a town hall meeting next month where residents can sound off about the plan.

Tanks for the memories: The planned redevelopment.

The panel hasn’t canvassed opinions on the Rivington House revelations yet, but so far residents’ biggest issue has been about the 24 condominiums in the project — which the developers plan on knocking down the President Street side of the armory to build — and people just generally think there isn’t enough so-called “affordable” housing going in, according to the committee’s chairman.

“The condos take away space from the community, simple as that,” Warren Berke said. “I think the community feeling is a lot like the general feeling around Brooklyn — that there’s not enough affordable housing.”

Half of the complex’s 330 apartments are below-market rate, but only 66 of them will be available to people making less than the citywide median income — $90,600 for a family of four and $63,500 for an individual. The rest will be available to those who make 110 percent of the citywide figure, or around $100,000 annually.

The median household income in Crown Heights is between $35,000 and $40,000 annually, according to the latest census data, though that includes households of all sizes.

Mossman said she’d rather the entire complex be turned into a community facility, but if housing must come to the armory, then it should be priced so longtime Crown Heights residents can actually afford it.

“ ‘Affordable’ is a catchphrase — what we really need is low-incoming housing that is actually affordable,” she said.

Slate did not return a request for comment.

Bedford-Union Armory meeting in the auditorium at MS 61 (400 Empire Blvd. at New York Avenue in Crown Heights), Sept. 14 at 6:30 pm.

A big deal: The Bedford-Union Armory will become Bedford Courts if the development goes ahead. More than 300 apartments will fill the massive complex.
Photo by Paul Martinka

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at dlynch@cnglocal.com.