The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

CB9 Votes To "Kill the Deal" - Will It Matter?

It was a hot one at MS61 last Monday, and as a result, I think, the rhetoric was a bit less heated. That's right, the Q thinks the heat might actually have kept folks in their seats. Who wants to sweat MORE? Not that there weren't fireworks, and a bit of twist that the Q hadn't seen coming - a steady stream of actual or arm-twisted supporters of the project. Folks who actually want a big recreation center even if it's funded by a deal with developer BFC partners. The plan was unanimously voted down though 15-0, and only a fool (and the Q's mama didn't raise no fools) would have dared vote yes.

On the "kill the deal" side all the usual suspects were there - union fighters, housing activists, self-flagellating gentrifiers - railing against the project as if it would be a personal betrayal, rather than just another project in a City of wealth-speculators and well-meaning City Planners. Had this project come to fruition closer to its inception (2012 maybe?), it likely wouldn't have caused so much ado. But the pent-up rage in CH has reached a near-boiling point (and I say "near," because there's always a notch higher, and history shows the toppest notches ain't pretty.)

Take a step back a minute in G-fication time machine. Was a day not so many years ago that longtime Crown Heights residents would have welcomed a new rec center with open arms. Don't listen to the crazy arguments about the center's inaffordability - even without the added discounts to be offered as needed, $10 a month (as projected) is not out-of-reach for the vast majority of residents interested in using a modern pool/fitness/sports center. It's an incredible deal, and many of the operators and leagues offering services will undoubtedly welcome the opportunity with local kids who need financial help. Claiming that the world-class facility needs to be free to all is simply absurd. Folks can scrounge the few bucks, and those that can't wouldn't be turned away, at least not with local Electeds keeping the place honest.

Even the housing component would have been welcomed. A decade ago the idea that permanent affordable housing would be included in a multi-million dollar plan to re-purpose the armory would have been seen as a win-win-win. The market rate housing? Back when the seismic demographic shift of the neighborhood seemed fanciful, even absurd, no one would have blinked. When the Q started this blog there was another, much more popular online rag called "I Love Franklin Avenue" and it burst with enthusiasm every time a new espresso house or eatery opened, as if a dormant bear was waking from his winter snooze to smell the coffee. At the time only a smattering of youthful whites could be spotted along long-challenged Franklin, and the first sprouting new businesses were seen as economic rejuvenation, not hostile takeover. I fully believe if the project had begun just after that recession, we'd all have gotten used to the below by now:

But City projects move slowly, and the neighborhood has gone through a massive economic rebound, and the change has left longtime locals aghast, out-of-an-apartment, or wildly wealthy (if they owned property.) Dollars are flowing in and out of the neighborhood in buckets.

I say all this not to pass judgment, but to provide context, because on the surface or from afar it might seem strange, even self-defeating, to say F.U. to a huge public amenity that would house space for the arts and senior and after-school activities, not just swimming and soccer and basketball through the cold months. And far from a fantasy, this one is on the books, payed for, and ready to roll. The City was understandably stoked when it figured out that it could hire a developer to build out the whole shebang since it would make its money on the rentals. The condos - sold by BFC - would finance the rec center. Follow? In exchange, BFC would get a 100 year lease on the land, which means years of solid returns for the company - much of which would go to finance other projects and so on. Sure, people would get paid handsomely - they didn't enter the developer world purely out of the goodness of their heart after all. Nor do most of us go to work every day purely for the joy and camaraderie.

So here we are, with more drama to come. Will Councilperson Laurie Cumbo buck CB9's will and negotiate a deal with the City? She currently says she opposes the plan, but then she's up for re-election, and she might be wise to remain mum til after the September primary. And BP Adams - isn't this precisely the kind of "build, build, build" he was championing after his election?

The politically simple call would be to vote no, and start over, and not risk a loud and sustained backlash from vocal detractors. But maybe the prudent thing, knowing that all social or political or economic hell might break loose at any time, would be to take the bird in the hand rather than the two in the (Flab)bush.


Anonymous said...

Ha ha. Just for context, let's consider the Bronx Armory. It was only a blink of an eye, only 25 years ago that a movement to convert that armory into something for the people began. The talk was all about wages. A lot of plans centered on creating some kind of retail center.

The brilliant president of the Bronx declared that approval of a retail center would depend on the wages the retail tenants would pay. The brilliant president demanded very high wages. Well above the legal minimum. When negotiation failed, the project was cancelled. But the wage rate was settled. Exactly $0.00 an hour.

It appears now that an ice rink may be built. An ice rink? Why? Who knows? But Cuomo promised to seize $108 million from taxpayers to provide some funding for this white elephant. As of now, the finished project is estimated to cost $350 million. Even the supporters acknowledge the final bill will go much higher.

Aside from the temporary construction jobs, which would exist no matter what the future of the building would be, how many permanent jobs does an ice rink create? Not many.

Anyway, there's still time for a cancellation to occur.

But 25 years is only half the time the property at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic sat vacant. The Dodgers left Ebbets Field after the 1957 season. Robert Moses said the city had plans for the property, and the plans didn't include baseball. Fifty years later, long after Moses died -- Basketball.

Alex said...

Some people won't like it, but the city should proceed with this project. A few years down the road, the rec center will be considered a vital resource that people cannot imagine living without. Some of the housing should be affordable, and the developers should be pushed to create family-sized housing, not just more profitable 1brs and studios. At least 1/3 should be 2 or 3brs.

Alex said...

MikeF said...

This show is far from over.

Kasa Thompson said...

It is a Caribbana Community Bigot. Sp me a favor go lick Pia for me. Jo to Hell.

Kasa Thompson said...

It is a Caribbana Community Bigot. Do me a favor go lick Pia for me. Go to Hell.

Kasa Thompson said...

You damn right it is nonsense racist nonsense. Yes the White Amerikkkan Racist Hipster Party hosted by " Nooklyn Real Estate" On June,2,2017 in Bushwick . it was a madhouse 0f 1000+ Hipsters. Again you do not know the neighborhood and streets. Please leave.

Anonymous said...

Fact check: Can subsidies pay for community takeover of armory project?
Examining a claim that locals could do a proposed rec center and housing development for the price of its subsidies
Erik Engquist By Erik Engquist

In an op-ed Tuesday, Jabari Brisport, an opponent of for-profit, mixed-income housing development proposed at a Crown Heights armory, declared that if the site were developed by a community land trust, "We could have ... a world-class recreation center and low-income housing" and "fund it using the same city and state subsidies that the project is already receiving."

The first question his proposal raises is whether community members would have the expertise to convert a massive, long-vacant armory into a world-class recreation center and build 330 low-rent apartments beside it, as developer Don Capoccia was selected by the de Blasio administration to do.

The city has a construction agency, but it is known for spending much more and taking much longer to complete projects than private developers do. Critics of government argue that agency employees would be earning more money in the private sector if they were especially talented at managing projects, and that they have no profit motive or fear of monetary loss to inspire them to work harder, faster or better.

An easier question to answer is whether the project's subsidies would be enough for a project with hundreds of units. A spokesman for Brisport said the development is getting New Market tax credits, Low-Income Housing tax credits, probably a property-tax abatement under the state's 421-a replacement, and $6 million in direct grants from the borough president and City Council. "It adds up to about $17 million in taxpayer money," he wrote.

Not exactly. Or even remotely.

First, tax breaks are not cash. The city cannot spend money that a developer saved on his federal taxes because of credits. And even if it were actual money and not uncollected taxes, the de Blasio administration cannot raid the U.S. Treasury or expropriate funds from a federal program. Moreover, the federal tax credit programs are only available to private investors, not community land trusts.

But for the sake of argument, assume that the $17 million in subsidies were a pile of greenbacks on the mayor's desk. Could he build the proposed project, less the 56 market-rate and middle-income condominium apartments proposed by the developer but unwanted by Brisport?

Dividing $17 million by the proposed 330 rental units comes to $51,515 per dwelling. Considering that the city just spent $2 million to build a 400-square-foot rest room, creating apartments twice that size for just over $50,000 apiece is not in the realm of possibility. And this scenario leaves no money for the 67,000-square-foot recreation center, which would include an indoor soccer field, three basketball courts, three multi-sport courts and a 25-meter swimming pool.

In fact, the estimated cost of the project as proposed is $196 million, more than 11 times what Brisport, a Prospect Heights artist who is running for City Council, says the subsidies are worth. Even if the 56 condos and approximately 165 market-rate rentals were removed, $17 million would not nearly pay for the project envisioned by Brisport.