City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo delivered the State of the 35th District address Thursday night at the Ingersoll Community Center in Fort Greene. However, the evening didn't begin with Cumbo addressing her constituents: There was a large group of Crown Heights residents gathered outside of the community center, protesting the concessions of the Bedford-Union Armory deal-- a plan that Cumbo has, until recently, supported.
Over the past 15 years-- from 2000 to 2014-- the black population in Crown Heights decreased from 79 percent to 66 due to rising housing costs, while the white population has increased from from 9 percent to 21 percent during that same period, according to the Furman Center.
The protestors say, that's a huge problem, and the Bedford-Army deal in its current form will only make the problem worse. They point out that the plan sets aside 50 percent of the units as luxury condominiums to be sold at market rate. The remaining units, although deemed "affordable," were not truly, he said, for the area's low-income residents.
"It's important that Laurie Cumbo comes out against the deal. I don't want to have luxury apartments in my neighborhood," said Jon Golbe, a community support professional who was outside the community center handing out flyers.
Gobe added, because the project will be constructed on city-owned property, the city should take more of a role in deciding what percentage of new housing should be kept affordable.
Inside Ingersoll was a very different picture. It was a celebratory atmosphere. Cumbo started the night with a drum show by the Brooklyn United Marching band followed by the national anthem sung by a young student from P.S. 11. Cumbo says she "wanted to make this about our youth."
Cumbo started by announcing the the winners of the participatory budgeting which all went to schools: $300,000 went to P.S. 221 for safer routes during the children's commute to school; and $350,000 each went to P.S. 705 for science and technology upgrades and P.S. 241 for its science lab.
After touting her district schools-- and mentioning that she's expecting a baby in August and therefore has a shared interest in building the capacity of schools in her district-- Cumbo turned to the Bedford-Union Armory deal.
Earlier that day, Cumbo announced at Brooklyn Borough Hall that she too had some issues with the deal: "Negotiations over the Bedford-Union Armory have broken down," said Cumbo. "Over the last year I have been working tirelessly with the DeBlasio administration and PFC partners to come forward with the best plan for the Crown Heights community and Brooklyn at large.
"As your city councilmember, I can't support a project with luxury condos as the backbone."
New York is in "the housing crisis of the generation," she added. "So I have taken the beatings; I've taken the protests; I've taken the rallies. In good faith with the administration I tried to do all that I could do to bring forward the best project.
"I will not support a project that has luxury condominiums and is unaffordable to a community. This is public land, this is one of the few opportunities we have to create not just affordable housing but low-income housing."
Cumbo spent the remaining time touting a list of other accomplishments out of her office, including preserving Key Food, a beloved neighborhood grocery on Lafayette Avenue; her continued work with Vision Zero; and new legislation passed in support of women's rights, including sensitivity training for police officers regarding sexual assault victims and a text 911 initiative that will take effect over the next few years.