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.