The Real Deal New York

Legal Aid sues city to block Bedford-Union Armory project

NYC uses flawed method to evaluate tenant displacement: organization
By Eddie Small | November 29, 2017 02:40PM

The Legal Aid rally against the Bedford-Union Armory (Credit: Spencer Gallop/The Legal Aid Society)

Legal Aid Society’s lawsuit opposing the contentious Bedford-Union Armory plan in Crown Heights aims to change the way the city evaluates tenant displacement.

The organization filed its litigation against the city of New York on Wednesday, claiming that the city should not be allowed to move forward with the armory because officials did not properly determine how many residents it could price out of the neighborhood.

The lawsuit argues that the city’s overall method of evaluating tenant displacement is flawed, as it assumes the only vulnerable residents are those living in unregulated apartments.

“Real-world experience shows us that the introduction of above-market units to a neighborhood puts regulated and unregulated tenants alike at risk of displacement,” the suit reads.

The lawsuit cites vacancy bonuses and tenant harassment as factors that make all tenants vulnerable and essentially invalidate the city’s decision-making process.

“The city’s methodology not only puts Crown Heights tenants at risk but others barely making rent in every borough,” Judith Goldiner, attorney-in-charge of Legal Aid’s civil law reform unit, said in a statement. “The current proposal sets a dangerous precedent, and it will worsen displacement if left unchecked.”

Crown Heights tenants Lyris Ming and Faith Wilder, along with the organization Tenants and Neighbors, are listed as petitioners in the suit, which Legal Aid unveiled Wednesday at an event on the steps of City Hall. The City Council intends to vote on the armory plan on Nov. 30, and it is expected to pass.

The Bedford-Union Armory is a mixed-use project from developer BFC Partners that would include 250 affordable apartments with rents between $521 and $1,166, as well as a recreation center. Local Council member Laurie Cumbo recently came out in favor of the plan, but it still faces stiff opposition from activists.

The city will review the complaint and respond accordingly, according to the Law Department.