Gloom and Loom at BBG

Gloom and Loom at BBG
Artist's rendering of proposed development along eastern perimeter of BBG

Monday, March 27, 2017

Threat to BBG Update: Cornell Realty Meets ULURP

Cornell Realty made their presentation to the ULURP committee of CB9 on Wednesday night. A strong majority of the committee and perhaps all residents in attendance are opposed to allowing the "spot rezoning" Cornell is seeking, one that would negate the single down-zoning that has ever been provided this beautiful neighborhood and done in order to protect the Botanic Gardens. Assuming the sun and the earth continue to have the same relationship, why would the threat posed by tall towers along the Garden's eastern perimeter be any less now than in 1991?

The lawyer for the developer tried to play it like his client has no preference as to whether Cornell would be allowed to build as-of-right to 6-7 stories or 175'(17 1/2 stories). Cornell further claimed to have no interest in the extra 15' it would get from participation in the FRESH program, though they reserved the right to apply for it at a later date. That would be after they submitted a shadow study at 175' when 190' is, safe to say, the plan.

The lawyer for Cornell Realty, Ray Levin was, besides dissembling, shockingly inappropriate in his tone, exasperated as he was with questions, which he belittled as he dismissed them. ULURP chair Michael Liburd felt compelled to remind Levin of the need to be respectful. Is this how Levin gets results for his clients?

Neither Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo nor anyone from her office was in attendance despite the enormity of the issue. I give committee member Tim Thomas credit for calling her out on it, for being conspicuous only in her absence. Looking forward to voting for Ede Fox come November.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Bedford Armory? KILL THE DEAL

According to a spokesperson, EDC has solicited public comments concerning the Bedford Armory development thru March 17 in order to make the project "even better." That is a very low bar, because what is proposed is throughly objectionable.

I have attended pretty much every public meeting regarding the Armory. In the beginning, we were told that since the land is city-owned, the profitability equation was different, making it possible to have all affordable housing built on the site. As opposed to the luxury housing that has displaced 10,000 people from the neighborhood to date (including 1,600 families evicted from the Ebbets Field Houses in the last year).

That was Lie #1. Now the proposed ratio of so-called affordable units to market rate is the same as any other luxury construction in the city. This is unacceptable. By what logic are we mortgaging what we already own??

Residents have repeatedly been asked what they want to see happen with the Armory. None of us ever asked for luxury development or any studio apartments. Neither is of use to the residents of this community.

We asked for a recreation center and office space for local non-profit organizations. In fact, we would rather no housing be built at all than to be further displaced by what is proposed.

2. The recreation space depicted in the BFC drawings tells the truth about who the Armory is being developed to serve. Why is the extreme height of the drill hall not being divided into two or more storeys in order to maximize the space available to local organizations and educational institutions?

I'll tell you why. It's so that the elite living in the luxury development can practice their Downward Dog under an 80' ceiling, with the sun streaming in, the moon passing overhead. It's the kind of wasted space that tells a person s/he's special. It reveals that no thought whatever has been given to the needs of the community. We have a college so short of housing that classes continue to be held in trailers and some students – 80% of whom are single parents – are reportedly living in their cars. Yet the developer can envision nothing more useful for this space than a yoga mat under the stars. It's offensive to the core. It's institutionalized racism.

And are we really to believe that the wealthy residents of this luxury housing are going to share the pool with kids from the neighborhood? Will there be separate hours for Armory residents and the rest of us? Will the water be changed between uses? Asking for friends.

Why is no one able to say definitively that use of the recreational facilities will be free to neighborhood residents? The word "discounts" is bandied about. Once again, affordability is the issue. The brand new Lakeside Skating Rink in Prospect Park was re-priced specifically to keep our kids from congregating there. Our suspicions are well-founded.

Who plays soccer in New York City? Not black kids in Crown Heights. Yet a full third of the facility is to be dedicated to soccer.

3. Then there's the matter of the Lease. Two million dollars a year! Sounds like a lot of money? But THE AMOUNT NEVER GOES UP over the 99-year term. Wow! Who doesn't wish that they were paying the same rent on their place as was paid 99 years ago?

4. Then there's the recent entry into the picture of the ex-con Clarence Norman, Jr. and his generically named Local Development Corporation of Crown Heights. We're told that BFC has given Norman $500,000 in "seed money" to establish a fund to develop affordable housing elsewhere in the neighborhood. Other money "may" be donated to the fund in the future. May!

What does $500k buy in this market? Perhaps 5-6 apartments could be renovated for this sum, assuming the building was extant. sound, and free of charge to the developer. It's a scandal that a convicted fraudster should even be invited to share in the bounty the Armory portends​ or that anything meaningful could be built for such a sum​.

I could go on. KILL THE DEAL.