Battle stations! Crown Heights wars over armory apartments

Bad deal: Crown Heights Tenant Union co-founder Donna Mossman thinks the Bedford-Union Armory should become a community center instead of a residential development.
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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.

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.

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at
Updated 4:33 am, August 17, 2016
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Reasonable discourse

Jjm from C. Hill says:
Sorry but just talking to these developers isnt gonna work. I say just burn it down or rob all the future yuppies who are gonna live there if they build it. The L train is getting shut down so they're gonna try to move all over brooklyn while making everyone else's rent higher then it already is now.
Aug. 17, 2016, 1:22 pm
typo-catcher says:
‘Affordable’ is a catchphrase — what we really need is *low-incoming* housing that is actually affordable,” she said.

--surely you meant to type *low-income*
Aug. 18, 2016, 8:34 am
Charles from Bklyn says:
To allow this developer to move forward on this project after the outrageous actions to essentially steal the nursing home on Rivington Street from the public would be an injustice of great proportions. Stop the madness; stop the corruption; stop this developer!!!
Aug. 18, 2016, 10:49 am
kevin from Wburg says:
From 12 years in Wburg, I've seen it agin n agin -- its a giant fake out. People who are stuck in the lower-middle to the lower end... but not living on the street... are left stranded.

Its really sad, and the so-called concessions by the developers are so miserly. yet the city keeps accepting it, allowing the wool to be pulled over their eyes. or maybe encouraging and wanting that wool.

The one plus to this fast and furious development everywhere is, hopefully, that there will be an abundance and even overflow of housing. but we won't see that till at least 2020.
Aug. 18, 2016, 2:53 pm
Hootie from Park Slope says:
Entitlement. They want a Gucci handbag on an H&M budget, and are shocked when they aren't just given it as a reward for acting out. Like a naughty child. The thinking is I'll throw a tantrum until you give it to me. If you can't afford it, stay in the apartment you live in now. Or find one in your budget in a cheaper neighborhood (Bronx?).
Aug. 20, 2016, 4:56 am

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