Shot down! Land use committee votes against developer’s plan for Crown Heights armory

Shot down! Land use committee votes against developer’s plan for Crown Heights armory
Community News Group / Colin Mixson

They were armed and ready.

Members of Community Board 9’s Land Use Committee voted unanimously on Monday to oppose the controversial scheme to put Crown Height’s city-owned Bedford-Union Armory in the hands of a private developer, after reps for the company failed to present a plan that would benefit area residents, according to the group’s chairman.

More than 60 community members spoke for roughly two hours leading up to the vote, which came days after a contentious session earlier this month, during which the civic honchos blasted the developer’s reps for re-presenting a plan that locals already vowed to oppose.

“This committee has made it clear that we do not want condos in the armory project and that we want more affordable housing,” Land Use Committee chairman Michael Liburd said on June 14. “It’s the same presentation we saw at dozens of public meetings, so why are we seeing it again when we have to vote on it?”

The chairman described Monday’s hearing as productive, if only because the audience was quiet enough to permit civil discourse — unlike the crowd at the June 14 session, whose vocal objections grew so deafening that committee members plugged their ears with their fingers to tune out the racket.

“Monday night was productive in that people could hear each other speaking,” Liburd said.

The unanimous vote was the first of a potential series of stumbling blocks in the project’s multi-step public review process, which developer BFC Partners must face as it seeks approval for a long-term lease to re-develop the armory on Bedford Avenue between President and Union streets.

The city’s terms for development of the armory require the developer to include a not-for-profit recreation center in the complex and to offer half of its planned housing at below-market rates.

But the scheme voted down on Monday continues to draw criticism from committee and community members, who do not approve of its more than 50 luxury condos and charge that only 18 of its 330 rental units will be offered at prices affordable to locals of an area with a median income of $40,000.

“The Uniform Land Use Review Procedure committee has seen this plan multiple times — multiple times — so I thought this was going to be different since we have to vote,” said advisory group member Beverly Newsome.

Others recognized that its problems were not solely the developer’s fault, noting that the city-issued request for proposal that outlined the development project in broad strokes is also to blame.

“We need to have an RFP that speaks to the needs of this community,” said committee member Nichola Cox. “We’re only going to get one shot at this.”

Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo (D–Crown Heights) — who publicly condemned the plan in front of a cadre of other opposed pols last month — reiterated her opposition in a statement released following the land use committee’s vote.

“I will not support a plan that includes luxury condominiums and grossly overlooks low-income housing at the Bedford-Union Armory,” Cumbo said. “I stand united with my constituents to urge Mayor de Blasio to go back to the drawing board and create a new plan that will nurture the growth of our community.”

The full community board will vote on the plan on June 27, after which Borough President Adams will review it, and then city planning, before it lands in city Council — where Cumbo has vowed to vote against it.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.