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Crossing the property line: City must drop armory plan because agency head bought home near site, opponents say

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Talk about being too close for comfort.

The city must drop its plan to give the publicly owned Bedford-Union Armory to a private developer because the head of the agency overseeing the project bought property near the military structure and stands to cash in on that investment if the deal goes through, according to local housing advocates.

James Patchett, the president of the Economic Development Corporation, purchased a home near the armory just months before the mayor named him as the head of the agency that brokered the development deal, and activists allege that transaction compromises his impartiality in a letter they sent to City Hall on Tuesday.

“Purchasing a property so close to the site puts Patchett in a clear and direct position to cash in on a redevelopment process he is helping to oversee,” read the missive from Our Armory Coalition, an alliance of advocacy groups opposed to the scheme.

DeBlasio appointed Patchett to the post this January. In Oct. 2016, he paid $1.8 million for property on Park Place between Nostrand and New York avenues. The lot sits about seven blocks from the armory at 1579 Bedford Ave. that the city wants to hand over to developer BFC Partners, which has promised to build below-market-rate housing and a non-profit recreation center there in return.

But anti-gentrification advocates strongly oppose the plan’s affordable housing component, which they claim offers only 18 of 330 rental units at rates within the means of longtime Crown Heights residents.

Opponents also blast the more than 50 luxury condos the scheme calls for, which they argue will draw an affluent out-of-town set, leading nearby property values to spike if and when the project concludes, according to another activist.

“Patchett bought the property knowing that he could influence the armory deal, and benefit from rising home prices on the gentrifying blocks surrounding the building,” said Celia Weaver, a director of advocacy group New York Communities for Change.

The Economic Development Corporation finished negotiating the armory deal between the city and BFC Partners in Dec. 2015, nearly a year before Patchett purchased the Park Place home, according to an agency spokesman. That timeline clears the official of any wrongdoings, he said.

“EDC managed a competitive RFP process and announced the project in December 2015, almost a full year before James Patchett purchased a home in the neighborho­od,” said Anthony Hogrebe. “So to claim that this decision was made for his benefit is simply absurd.”

In addition, Patchett took office in Feb. 2017, after he bought the house and at the beginning of the scheme’s public review process, which he and his agency have no say in, Hogrebe said.

“EDC does not control the final approval of this project, which is an independent public process that includes input from the Community Board, Borough President and city Council,” he said.

But Economic Development Corporation representatives have appeared at meetings throughout its review process, according to Weaver, who argued their presence suggests Patchett’s continued involvement.

“His agency represents the project at every public meeting in Crown Heights about it,” she said. “As the head of EDC, he has a direct say in the armory deal.”

And Patchett worked for an Economic Development Corporation board member prior to purchasing the property and taking charge of the agency, the activist said.

“When he bought the house, Patchett was working for Alicia Glen as chief of staff, and she is on the board,” Weaver said.

He should be removed from further discussions about the project due to his alleged impartiality, and the city should take its redevelopment plan back to the drawing board, according to Our Armory’s letter.

Patchett declared his purchase as a potential conflict of interest prior to assuming the top job at the Economic Development Corporation, which raised no issues with the city according to Hogrebe, who said the agency has no plans to drop the armory project.

“The fact that our president and his family live in Crown Heights should not and will not stop us from continuing to invest in that community,” he said.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 12:18 pm, August 30, 2017
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Reasonable discourse

Valeria Sowell from ENY/Canarsie says:
Greetings Leaders: Wish Mr. James Patchett Good Luck! Thank you.
Aug. 30, 8:42 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
I love the idea that local property owners shouldn't have a say over this project. The anti-housing activists should reflect on that.
Aug. 30, 10:39 am
Watching the 'hood get screwed from Brooklyn says:
Everyone stands to make a buck at the expense of those getting screwed-the about-to-be displaced Crown Hts residents...

I read with cynicism the plan to deliver 400 letters by Reverend Bloodsaw on behalf of this predatory and misplaced BFC takeover of the Bedford Armory...Rev Bloodsaw -not unlike Patchett are drooling awaiting payday...

"As part of the effort by developer BFC Partners to garner Adams’ support, Rev. Daryl Bloodsaw, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights, was scheduled to deliver nearly 400 letters backing the project to Borough Hall on Monday."

As you may well know, it cannot be mere coincidence that BFC's pledge of $500,000 to Bloodsaw aka LDCCH has encouraged the Reverend to push against community preference and outcry....(BFC knows exactly who to buy with their lengthy history of pay-to-play). From a March 2017 DNA story:

CROWN HEIGHTS — Days before a key public meeting on the controversial Bedford-Union Armory redevelopment proposal, the developer is promising to set aside at least $500,000 from the sale of condominiums on the site to create a fund for new affordable housing elsewhere in the neighborhood.
The fund, financed by the sale of 56 condos at the armory, would be managed by the Local Development Corporation of Crown Heights, a longtime nonprofit developer of low-income and senior housing in the area. The armory's developer, BFC Partners, said Wednesday it added LDCCH as a partner on the project to help hire contractors and gather input from the community.
LDCCH has been in talks with BFC about joining the project for months, the group’s executive director, Caple Spence, told DNAinfo on Thursday.
The affordable housing fund will be overseen by BFC, LDCHH and Rev. Daryl Bloodsaw of the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights, the successor to the late Rev. Clarence Norman Sr., who founded LDCHH in 1987, Spence said.
Former Brooklyn assemblyman Clarence Norman Jr., who works as a consultant for LDCCH, was involved in bringing Bloodsaw into the fold to help oversee the funds, Spence said.
Norman Jr., who spent time in prison for taking illegal campaign contributions, will not be involved with managing the affordable housing fund, Spence said. A spokesman for the developer confirmed Norman Jr. has no role in the development.
The establishment of the fund will not change plans for the amount of affordable housing at the armory itself, which currently includes approximately 177 units of low- and moderate-income units. Instead, Spence said, all of the money will be spent on FUTURE AFFORDABLE HOUSING (!) projects in the Crown Heights area, a fact that allows his group “to legitimately say to the community: This is what we are going to do for you."

These people are reprehensible -the line has to finally be drawn to protect the community which is under developer displacement attack and not sell out to Baron, Capoccia and Ferrara. I hope that will be the Brooklyn Borough President's position.
Aug. 30, 1:20 pm
TOM from Sunset Park says:
This charge is stretch. If he buying next door to the armory from an owner fleeing the development, maybe. Seven blocks away is a third of a mile or greater. Not viable as a charge.
Aug. 30, 5:10 pm
Adamben from Bedstuy says:
Lol!
Aug. 30, 5:37 pm
GFYS from The bottom of my heart says:
My tent home has a tear in it. I need this place. The library is about to kick me off the computer. Halp!
Aug. 31, 10:12 am
Draggin' Knuckles says:
I wish I had friends to talk to.
Aug. 31, 2:11 pm
Toonie from Staten Island says:
All I can say is : be careful. A similar thing happened here on Staten Island, where a developer lived near the historic area between the mall and the dump. After his project the whole mall to dump zone gentrified, and now the only people who can afford to live there are hipsters. It's become almost a cliche, the mall to dump historic zone hipsters. This could happen too if more attractions were available in the ghetto mentioned in the article.
Aug. 31, 8:16 pm
Alicia from Bed Stuy says:
This is an out and out lie by the people against this project! The developer is homeless! He lives on the street wherever he feels like sleeping! How dare they imply that he owns a home to live in?! Vicious slander! He has no idea what a home is! These people with their imense privillege oppose him because they're opposed to people who earn their own money, not just get it for free by buying cheap homes in trendy neighborhoods (as they did).
Sept. 1, 3:30 am
Ms. Me from Bay Ridge says:
But Toonie, hasn't the history of DUMPO always been a rather fast-moving scene?
Sept. 1, 9:18 am

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