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Disarmed! Besmirched developer backs out of Crown Heights armory project

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It has laid down its armory!

The embattled developer tapped to turn Crown Heights’ Bedford-Union Armory into housing has backed out of the project, apparently bowing to pressure from the city following revelations about its involvement in a scandal surrounding the sale of a Manhattan nursing home it plans to convert into luxury condos.

Slate Property Group sold its firm shares in the project to minority partner BFC Partners last week, a honcho announced in a letter to the city dated Aug. 19.

City investigators recently found that the developer colluded with the former owner of the Rivington House to hide the sale so the city would lift a deed restriction that banned it from turning what was a hospice for people with AIDS into housing, under the pretense that the then-owner was converting it to a for-profit nursing home.

The mayor’s office claimed it had no knowledge of Slate’s involvement in the shady deal when it tapped the firm to redevelop the humongous former weapons depot — though investigators also found at least some of his staffers knew luxury housing was on the cards — and a City Hall source claims it then strong-armed the developer to leave the armory project.

BFC Partners will now plow forward on its own.

The move comes ahead of what is likely to be a lengthy and bitter public review of the redevelopment plans, which call for the historic weapons depot to be transformed into a mix of condos, market-rate and below-market-rate rentals, offices, and a recreation center.

The plan came after two years of negotiations with area elected officials, Community Board 9 members, and civic leaders — many of whom ended up supporting the project — but a growing chorus of local activists are now railing against the scheme, which they believe will only further gentrify the rapidly changing neighborhood.

They’d prefer to see the entire armory turned into a community facility, or at least housing that exclusively caters to longtime locals.

Half of the complex’s 330 units are slated for so-called “affordable” housing, but only 66 of them will be available to people making less than the citywide median income — $90,600 annually for a family of four and $63,500 for an individual. The rest are earmarked for households earning around $100,000 a year.

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

The land-use review will allow the community board to offer an advisory recommendation on the proposal, and Council will need to approve the plan before it can go ahead.

Community Board 9 is holding a town hall meeting next month where residents can share their two cents.

Slate and BFC did not return requests 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 Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 4:02 pm, August 25, 2016
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