OPINION: The Bedford Union Armory Project Is A Disgrace. We Can’t Let It Happen Again.

OPINION: The Bedford Union Armory Project Is A Disgrace. We Can’t Let It Happen Again.
Bedford Armory. Ben Foldy / Bklyner

Crystal Hudson is a candidate for the City Council’s 35th District.

Last week marked the three year anniversary of the City Council’s severely flawed decision to approve the Bedford Union Armory (BUA) development project. It was a mistake at the time, and the evidence on why it was a bad deal has only compounded since.

Time and again, from BUA to East New York to Inwood, local community members who have been forced out of their homes from rising rents are given the false choice of creating a few jobs or affordable housing units only if they also accept the poison pills of luxury housing and amenities for the rich, non-union labor, and any number of other factors that ultimately hurt our communities and drive economic inequality in our city.

I say this as someone who later worked for the Councilmember whose support was critical for BUA approval – a decision I strongly disagreed with at the time and continue to oppose to this day. I am proud of my constituent services work in that office, and I stood up for our communities when I disagreed with the Councilmember on this and other policies.

While developers build projects like the BUA that are focused on maximizing profits at our community’s expense, components to financial stability for so many New Yorkers – like homeownership – have all but evaporated because of rising housing costs and stagnant wages.

As a third-generation Prospect Heights resident, I have seen firsthand how greedy developers and predatory financial practices tear apart our close-knit communities. I see the looming shadow of Atlantic Yards — a monument to the unfulfilled promises of developers who continue to lure politicians toward supporting bad deals by making the laughable promise that this time it will end up different.

As our city considers the need to rebuild after the pandemic, we can be sure that big developers will be ready with the same promises of housing crumbs and low wage jobs if we continue to let them run roughshod over our neighborhoods. We can also be sure that some Councilmembers will want to take the quick, easy deal rather than fight for what’s right.

But we can’t let that happen. We cannot rush through major development decisions that keep community members on the sidelines while individual lawmakers and developers hold closed door meetings. The needs and voices of community members – not real estate developers – must take priority.

We know that the policies of the past have failed our neighborhoods. We’ve seen the detrimental effects of rising rents, the displacement of long-time residents, and the unchecked greed that powers development throughout our city.

For the future of our city, the solutions require the courage of our next Council to say no to past policies, and no to powerful real estate interests and outside influence.

For starters, any public property must remain publicly owned and any residential development on public property must be built at 100% permanent affordability. The BUA could have been built in such a way, but instead, the false promise of requisite market-rate units to finance a much needed recreational center was taken at face value by our leadership – a claim we now know was blatantly false.

Loving our city means that we never stop working to make it better for all New Yorkers. We are organizing like never before because we know that we didn’t need to give Amazon billions in tax breaks so they could push lower income people out of Long Island City, and we didn’t need to use eminent domain to displace Black and Brown families to meet the needs of wealthy developers at Atlantic Yards.

I see glimmers of hope – we’re starting to win, and are doing so on our own terms. Just this November, activists who have been partners in the years-long effort to establish a Community Land Trust in East Harlem closed a deal to convert four city-owned buildings in East and Central Harlem into permanently affordable, community-controlled housing.

What comes next is organizing for good projects in our communities that will meet the housing and employment needs of our neighbors. Instead of luxury developments in low-income neighborhoods, we need to build 100%, community-owned affordable housing everywhere – from SoHo to Soundview, and beyond.

We have an exciting and critical opportunity to finally begin addressing the needs of working New Yorkers and ending the affordable housing crisis in our city. As I run for City Council, I am committed to putting power back in the hands of my community and ensuring that our voices are the ones that drive the decisions.