The Repurposing of the Armory at Bedford and UNION — Brooklynian

The Repurposing of the Armory at Bedford and UNION

(not the Armory at Bedford and Pacific that houses the large homeless shelter)

The huge armory at Bedford and Union occasionally hosts a concert, but is underused. That will soon change....

What do you want it to become?

You could jabber about your ideas and listen to the ideas of others on Monday.



  • Is it underused? I thought that the film folks kept it pretty busy year round?

  • I see it empty on many occasions, and think people have dreams of making it a rec center.

    Getting the funding for such dreams will be difficult, but something I worth the effort if the support is there.

  • Tish and Marty are advertising this mtg, so a big part of me wonders whether we are about to be told what it will become, under the guise of gathering input.

    I can't fault them for not trying to get things done.

  • I have been wondering what was in that building for years as I drive past.....

  • Here's what folks want it to become:

    The Wall Street Journal reports on a community meeting last night in which residents discussed how the armory at Bedford Avenue and Union Street in Crown Heights might be repurposed in the future: “Potential projects proposed included a Chelsea Market-style development, a recreation center, a senior center and a small-business incubator for food production.” The city is in the process of taking control of the massive armory from the state following the end of a military instillation in the facility this summer. Many locals and neighborhood leaders are in favor of a renovation of the structure into a fitness facility a la the Park Slope Armory’s recent renovation into a track and gym operated by the Y. The question, of course, is whether there will be funding for an overhaul like the one in Park Slope, which cost $16 million and was funded by the mayor’s office, the City Council and the borough president’s office. The story quotes Marty Markowitz as saying “creative ways of financing” might need to be explored for the Bedford Armory, which we assume means “think public-private if you want to see anything ambitious here.”


    I've gotta admit, I think the commenter who thinks this may end up a flea market may be on to something.

  • NY1's got a report and some video of the space here:

    Suggestions included indoor track, after-school center, local archive, and Gotham Girls Roller Derby Arena.

    There was talk of putting a track/rec center in the Bedford-Atlantic Armory awhile back, but that seems to have fizzled.

  • Also, email if you want to get a suggestion in to the NYU urban planning students who are prepping the report for Marty. It's all completely speculative at this point, of course, but that does mean there's plenty of time for an organized group of people to influence the process.

    I realize I'm basically just re-posting this post ( here, but it seemed worth repeating.

  • I'm interested in seeing what entity will run whatever it becomes.

    Medgar Evers College seems like a logical choice.

  • We were concerned about the status of the Bedford-Atlantic armory so we attended the meeting. Both Marty & Tish made a point of saying that plans were still very much in the works for a community center there, with Tish saying that there is 14 million for this project. Back in Spring 2010 when this was a "hot" topic CBAAR (Coalition for Bedford-Atlantic Armory Reform) was promised a seat at the table when planning for the Armory started. That summer we got a new Commissioner of Homeless Services and we have been waiting to see what happens with the proposed intake center. There will be an update to this effect at Tuesday's Crow Hill meeting

    FYI the mission of CBAAR is to reform the Bedford Atlantic Armory with the goal of improving the quality of life for all residents of Crown Heights North. We are committed to the following three positions

    1. There will be no intake center at the Bedford Atlantic Armory

    2. The Track & Field/Community Center will be developed responsibly with respect to the community that it will serve

    3. Conditions and opportunities for the current residents of the Armory will be improved.

  • btw: while we want to save our organizing/fundraising/community voice for the Bedford Atlantic Armory, the Armory at Union will be serving our community as well and we DO want to be involved in that discussion, if there are people who are interested in that process and you would like to represent the Crow Hill Community please get in touch, Thanks

  • One of the ideas was a senior center.

    I assume we wont actually require all of the local older adults attend any senior center that is created.

    As a result, I can't see a senior center taking up more than about 10% of the space in the armory.

  • edited May 2014

    BTW, NYU Wagner students created a comprehensive report on repurposing the Armory for Marty Markowitz this week.

    The pdf file exceeds Brooklynian's size limits, but I'll send you a copy via email if you PM me.

  • In order to attract non-profits and governmental agencies to the lowest income parts of the city, HRA takes over vacant city buildings and makes them Multi Service Ceters.

    This location is too large, and likely too well off to become exclusively a MSC. ...but it could become a combination MSC - Rec Center if there was the right mix of sponsors and providers.

  • Daily News says a Roller rink ? Seems kind of unimaginative, but inexpensive to build.

  • I think the roller rink idea is 100% nostalgia. People--myself included--really loved Empire Roller Rink. But apparently there's only one indoor rink in the entire city, so maybe there's demand?

  • The space is large enough that it could be divided into two floors. A rent paying store (Target, Walmart, Pathmark, etc) could rent the first floor and the profit could be used to subsidize the second floor (gym, flea market, roller rink, etc).

    The Target would only get leases for a maximum of 5 years, that way the city could give them the boot if they didn't hold up their end of the deal.

  • I definitely wouldn't want a Target or any other big box store there. Even though it has frontage on Bedford, the Armory is located in a residential neighborhood and the influx of cars or people that a big box would bring would really impact those folks living on Union, President and Rodgers. I'd rather see a recreational facility which I think would be less intrusive to the surrounding community. I also question why it can't continue to serve as soundstage and/or rehersal space. There is apparently a fair amount of usage currently, and if that were made permanent, maybe it would attract supporting businesses to the area, plus encourage partnership with MEC.

  • Why couldn't the big national chain be a Crunch or Eqinox or something similar? The neighborhood needs a gym!

  • A high end gym would work, but does the neighborhood have a large enough population that would $upport such a gym? If not, could the gym be a specialized facility that attracted people from all over the city, who would fork out big money to use it on an occasional basis?

    The estimates to heat, cool and maintain the facility are around $1m a year. ...this exceeds the resources available from MEC or NYC Parks dept.

    We need something that generates some $. I don't think a flea market or a roller rink could pull it off.

    I don't know how much the film/concert people paid; they may have gotten a deal from NYS that is no longer possible now that building is owned by NYC.

  • I think the plan would work if you had multiple uses, similar to the Chelsea Piers setup. If you had a roller rink + bowling alley + gym/fieldhouse + rehersal space you could get multiple tenants in with multiple revenue streams. The problem comes from dedicating the entire facility to one use. But its more than big enough to accommodate multiple uses.

    Then you can have MEC paying for access. For example MEC pays an annual flat fee to allow MEC students access to gym facilities. Cheaper than the school building its own space then having to pay O&M on that space. The secret is to build each individual piece so that it is large enough to support the revenue stream it needs to bring in, but not so large that it needs to charge ridiculous amounts of money for use of the space. Building flexible space that can accommodate many options,with one or two specialized premium use spaces(swimming pool, roller rink,etc)might be the ticket.

  • edited October 2014

    Although not politically popular, I can think of another use that comes with a somwhat ok funding stream:

    Alternative to Incarceration.

    Some of the funds that are presently spent to jail people on Rikers Island for misdemeanors could be used to create a day reporting center that focused on GED, drug rehab, vocational skills, etc.

    Those who failed to report, or acted like pricks while at the center, would join their incarcerated peers at Rikers. I doubt the political obstacles could be overcome though....

  • 8 months later, the deal is done:

    Bedford and Union Armory-

    Has our outgoing Boro President made any progress at filling you?

  • I liked the term in the article "national rink per person" average. Who keeps statistics like that??? In any event, I would think if an ice rink is built on Bedford that it does better than the old Empire Rollerdrome in its last years.

  • I doubt the city could support TWO ice facilities of this variety.

    ...hopefully there are lots of entities interested in this, and Marty (soon Eric Adams) is negotiating the best deal.

  • i mean, now that the velodrome isn't happening in Brooklyn Bridge Park....

  • Today, July 12, there is an article announcing that a lead investor has been found for the Kingsbridge site.

    Part of me suspects they were able to attract investors as a result of them depending upon patronage from wealthy people in NJ, Manhattan and Westchester. would take a really long time to be able to get that investment back just from people who lived in the surrounding area.

    Do we need a plan that creates a "destination" like this, or could we create something that is inexpensive enough to be sustained by our rapidly changing neighborhood?

  • Update. Looks like the Armory is back to being a "possible" future rec center.

  • Nov 7: A RFP for the development of the Bedford - Union has just been released.

    Here we go!

  • The plan to transform the big armory in the Bronx into an ice rink remains on track:

    I suspect that we will know what will become of "our armory" at Union and Bedford in the early Spring 2014.

  • edited March 2014
    A little birdie tells me that Youngwoo was among the entities who checked out the Armory at Bedford and Union.It is presently pursuing a similar size space in The Bronx:

    I wouldn't mind it if their Bronx deal fell thru and they ended up here.
  • edited February 2014
    While originally scheduled to occur on January 23rd, the deadline for bidders to submit proposals for the funding available from the Boro Presidents office and NYC EDC, was pushed back to this Thursday (Feb 27th).

    There is no exact timeline for when we will learn what the armory will become; the length of the review process depends on the volume and nature of responses received.

    tick, tick, tick....
  • edited October 2014
    I've put some thought into it, and this site should be added to the list of big developments in western Crown Heights that I follow closely:
  • edited March 2014
    This group is the very definition of Johnny come lately:

    "SIGN the PETITION! BEDFORD UNION ARMORY will be handed off to developers with NO community input UNLESS we act NOW! JOIN US to demand the Request for Proposals (RFP) be WITHDRAWN and rewritten to ensure Crown Heights residents and the greater Brooklyn community can benefit from its renovation. Let Boro President Eric Adams, Council Member Laurie Cumbo and our other elected and city officials know we WANT the ARMORY to be of, for, & by the community!!! Sign the petition at

    They fail to understand that just because they are confident that they will not like the outcome of the RFP, that they can not stop the process.

    Sorry, it doesn't work that way.

  • The other night during dinner, my wife and I figured out what the armory should be:
    A giant indoor aquarium, like these ones:

    There would be a restaurant inside, as well, so you could dine underwater.

    I do admit that we may be a little late. Also, we have little to no experience in operating large-scale indoor aquariums, nor do we have access to capital funding necessary to pull it off.

    That being said, how do we get an aquarium?
  • edited May 2014
    I do hope it would be a seafood restaurant.

    ...that way, we could freak out the third graders on field trip:   "I'll have the Finding Nemo Fish and Chips."
  • NYS EDC and the Mayor's Office are reportedly arguing over this site, with each accusing the other of not being transparent, not having the jurisdiction, etc.

    In such situations, there is rarely someone that is able to intervene and say, "you two grow up and get along, or no one is getting pizza".

  • edited May 2014
    This group is trying to build popular support, with the hope that it will influence the NYS ESDC:

    Um, they evaluate your proposal to see if it meets their needs.   This isn't about how many people like it.
  • Are the proposals available for the public to read anywhere?
  • edited June 2014
    I don't believe so.

    The individual bidders (ie organizations) are free to share what they proposed, but are under no obligation to so. Many bidders try to keep the fact they submitted a bid confidential for a variety of reasons.

    The org presenting on June 3 will likely say what they believe they know about the other bidders and their concepts, in order to make their own bid sound superior to those in attendance.

    Once the contract is awarded, EDC will likely make a statement about what type of proposals it considered and list the various orgs that applied, in order to show that the process was thorough and fair.
  • It isn't clear to me that the "Local Development Corporation of Crown Heights" has a list of similar projects that it has accomplished.

    In these situations, funders are looking for a substantional Organizational CV.

    Merely living close to the project isn't going to be enough.

    If I attend on June 3rd, I may ask questions re: same.
  • edited May 2014
    This flyer indicates the bid was submitted in conjunction with Steiner Studios. Depending upon their size, that could help

  • I hope to attend. It would be great if the side windows were not all bricked up or appearing so. a couple small shops on the sides would make this monument more welcoming and less like a stone mausoleum to the community on the side streets..
  • I have heard the parts of the building that used to be horse stables were proposed by on bidder to become affordable housing.

    Affordable housing earns a proposal points in the present climate.
  • I'd so love it if a Y with a pool moved in...we need rec space!
  • I fear this meeting tonight will be nothing but politicians grandstanding and people shouting.
  • I hope not - I am definitely attending so hopefully something productive will come of it.  I must admit - when I did see the list of all the co-hosts in attendance I thought the same thing may happen.  I am curious to see what Steiner Studios has proposed that will benefit both them and the community.  
  • edited June 2014
    About 100 people here. This is the portion in front of me, on the left.

  • edited June 2014
    The actual proposals were submitted by Steiner and other organizations.

    The speaker (F. Richard Hurley Esq.) believes at least 6 proposals were submitted. However, the bidders can't talk about their proposals until after the award.

    This new "association of associations" is seemingly partial to Steiner, and let them use their name in the proposal.

    If Steiner gets the award, he wants to make sure that most of the jobs go to local residents, and that "the community" has ongoing input and control.

    He believes Steiner has a good shot at getting the award, but is afraid that Steiner will not follow thru on their assurances to him (and "the community").

    If Steiner doesn't get the award, he wants to have similar "influence" over the bidder that does win. He wants EDC to mandate the winner abide by whatever demands this coalition creates.
  • edited June 2014
    This mtg is basically a way to figure out how they would go about that, and he is telling people to accept that the RFP isn't going to be withdrawn.

    This is not the same as the group referenced above on March 28th.
  • edited June 2014
    The Steiner proposal (and several others) reportedly involve demolishing what was the armory parking garage and building an apartment building with market and affordable units.
  • Some people (ie the March 28 people) fear that competing proposals involved the bidder literally buying it from the city, with few or zero conditions.

    I do not believe the city has this ability.
  • edited June 2014
    These are the folks in front of me, to my right

  • This part of the armory would be torn down and replaced with a mid rise apt building:

  • So...did they say anything about what kind of facilities will be available for the public? I'd be totally cool with housing in place of the garage and cool community stuff in the giant drill space! I dream of a pool...the closest pools to CH are in Bed Stuy and it would be so nice to be able to just walk to a pool...
  • No one knows which proposal will win, but I doubt any of them proposed a pool. Pools are very expensive to run, and have lots of liability attached.

    The bidders are not allowed to speak until the award is made.
  • but correct if I am wrong - i was there last night as well (actually very close to you based on your pics). Laurie Cumbo did say that at some point BEFORE the award is made there would be a public meeting where the community could see the different proposals - of course to keep the identity of the developers secret those would not be included in this public forum but nonetheless we would see these six BEFORE the award and that public viewing is supposed to happen next month. 
  • Yes. It seemed to me the purpose of said mtg would be for ESDC to be able to state that "we had a fair process".

    I am not under the impression this future mtg would influence which bid receives the award.
  • EXACTLY - people will go to this meeting where we see all 6 proposals for pure theatre - but we know by then the decision would have already been made - if it hasn't already. 
  • do you mean EDC?  is ESDC the same?  There were so many acronyms and organizations thrown out last night - I couldn't keep up - LOLOL
  • Yes, this RFP was issued by the NYC EDC. ...I get it confused with the the NYS version.

    Here are links to the actual RFP that was issued:

    BTW, the idea that EDC would stipulate that the successful bidder would abide by the "demands" of last nights coalition is fanciful. Bidders do not have to do things that were not in the RFP, and the EDC is not going to put itself in a position where it must force two entities to get along.

    If the neighborhood wants locals employed at the new armory, they should make sure that locals know about the positions and then are prepared to convince the employer they are best for the job.

    Otherwise, this will become a mere charade of hiring local.
  • I covered the event and the story will hopefully be picked up by the Brooklyn Eagle:

    If I got anything wrong, or if there is additional information, please kindly advise. Nobody is perfect and I'm new to this subject. If I left something out I can add it in. Thanks for your help.
  • yah - the one thing I notice about last night is that while passionate the focus was off - the community needs to ZERO IN with a laser beam on what they want - there were too many other things coming up - senior centers closing - candidates making 2 minute election speeches - Tivoli Towers situation, tenant unions, etc.  While I understand all these are important I would recommend to CHCC to table other topics and stay ON POINT with the armory only and deal with the other issues at other times.  And there are WAY too many people and organizations involved - the people running the meeting couldn't even keep up.  I would have ONE org - TWO at the most become the 'voice' for the armory and become the umbrella for the community.  as you correctly stated above, the 'community' is already fighting an uphill battle and to make the best fight possible they need to make some major changes and quickly if they hope to take on the city.  Just my two cents based on what I saw and heard last night.       
  • @whynot_31, One of the people in your picture is my neighbor. 
  • edited June 2014
    Hopefully she got one of the ~100 cards I passed out at the mtg:

  • I picked up 10 to pass out at my building - 345 Montgomery Street (The Dearborn).

  • The redevelopment of thr Kingsbidge Armory into an ice rink is now stalled due

    I seems that could happen at "our" armory as well.
  • Okay, I have finally realized what I would love to see at the Bedford-Union Armory space, perhaps as the ground floor retail tenant of whatever type of housing ends up on site: a TRADER JOE'S! Everyone likes Trader Joe's. The price points are great, the variety of foods, wines and beers are terrific, and the company treats its employees fairly progressively and well. The one in Carroll Gardens is so crowded...and I see so many people walking around CH and PLG with Trader Joe's bags already, so I think it would be a great success!
  • @crownheightster, you're a person after my own heart!

    First the idea of a Duane Reade/CVS on Nostrand, then a Trader Joes at the Armory... I would just die of happiness :)
  • Yeah a neighborhood trader joes would be fabulous!!
  • I could see the base of the new "affordable housing building" (see photo above) being made into retail, but I do not think the main armory building will be converted into such a use.

  • Yes!  Let's not over think it.  TJ's, or some other market/store that offers daily convenience is the answer.  A skating rink?  We're not there yet.
  • No, you'd definitely want to preserve the drill hall for some kind of "community use" thing. But a Trader Joe's! :) Oh, I'd die of happiness.
  • Also, as a community member, I'd get much more out of a Trader Joe's than a skating rink. though the youth may differ in opinion.
  • I hope the EDC is able to announce what will actually be coming by July 1.

  • Ditto on the thrill of the idea of a Trader Joe's!!! A Duane Reade would also be an amazing and much needed addition to the nabe!! I hope for both!!!
  • I'd really like to see an all-of-the-above kind of place. It should primarily host the kinds of uses that require large spaces.

    A little bit Chelsea Market, a little bit soundstage, a little bit velodrome, and a little bit Third Ward-style pay-as-you-go woodworking & metalworking shop.

    (I'd put the Trader Joe's on the site of the former gas station.)
  • Any news on this. I thought we were going to hear something on July 1. I am waiting impatiently.
  • I have heard the delay is due to prolonged discussions about how much affordable housing will be built, and that they may separate the operation of that portion of the property from the "domed armory part".

    Lots of eyes are on this site, and developer of the former Dunkin Donuts gas station may be taking a wait and see approach.

    ....I would.
  • Is it still slated to be a marriot something or apartments?
  • It is zoned commercial, so a hotel would be allowed, but not apartments.

    Here is all I know:
  • edited July 2014
    @Naturegirlbk, there's a RiteAid three blocks south on Bedford.
  • @Naturegirlbk, there's a RiteAid three blocks south on Bedford.
    A Walgreens has also been announced on Empire Boulevard, down one block and over one block from that Rite Aid. :)
  • I can't help but think that whatever "our" armory becomes, it may have a similar effect on local commercial rents as the big one about to be renovated in the Bronx.

    Spoiler: Commercial rents are soaring in anticipation
  • Unlike the armory at Bedford and Union, control over an armory in Williamburg has not been transferred from the state to the city.

    The state isn't clear what it plans to do with it:
  • The big armory in the Bronx is estimated to be getting a total investment of $350M.

    The winner of the bid for the armory at Bedford and Union will need to play in a similar league.  
  • Where are the investors when we need them? Let's get this armory thing going already!
  • The heads of local community groups recently met in order to form a united front, and demand that they be consulted.

    Rabbi Eli Cohen, the President of the
    Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, Vaughan Tony from the Friends of Crown Heights, Frank Esquilin, the President of Crow Hill Community Association and Jacqueline Welch of Community Board #9 and Neighborhood Advisory Board #14.

    "We all look forward to working together in our Community with the City on transforming the Armory to a community based location!"

  • Which one of these local community groups include representation of community members who've recently moved to CH (e.g., gentrifiers)?  These seem to be the "old guard."
  • edited September 2014
    Correct. Their agenda seems to be as stated above:

    --->This new "association of associations" is seemingly partial to Steiner, and let them use their name in the proposal.

    If Steiner gets the award, he wants to make sure that most of the jobs go to local residents, and that "the community" has ongoing input and control.

    He believes Steiner has a good shot at getting the award, but is afraid that Steiner will not follow thru on their assurances to him (and "the community").

    If Steiner doesn't get the award, he wants to have similar "influence" over the bidder that does win. He wants EDC to mandate the winner abide by whatever demands this coalition creates. <---

    However, as stated above, I do not believe they will be successful.
  • edited September 2014
    Which one of these local community groups include representation of community members who've recently moved to CH (e.g., gentrifiers)?  These seem to be the "old guard."
    What would the significance be of having a "gentrifier" to represent some community members? What would their interests be? How would these differ from those of "the old guard"?

  • edited September 2014
    @mugofmead111 - I think it is safe to assume that the newcomers have different wants/needs than those living here for a while.  A newcomer's family dynamics and income profile is likely very different.
  • Do we have a sense of when the winner will be announced?
  • The process keeps being delayed.

    I suspect that the affordable housing component and the "big space" component must be arranged at the same time.

    The latter might subsidize the former.
  • Ah, makes sense. Delays like these bring out my inner capitalist/authoritarian, which just wants to scream "build SOMETHING, dammit!"
  • @mugofmead111 - I think it is safe to assume that the newcomers have different wants/needs than those living here for a while.  A newcomer's family dynamics and income profile is likely very different.
    That doesn't answer the question of what the interests of the newcomers are, or how these may differ from those of long-term residents. :)
  • If there is affordable housing component, I'd like to it be an affordable co-op (instead of a rental) so that the longtime Crown Heights residents who are in danger of being displaced can gain a foothold in the neighborhood. This way they don't have to worry about getting kicked out when the program expires in 20 or 30 years. Also, when it's time to sell, they will be able to make some money and get a slice of the real estate price appreciation pie for themselves, bringing them into the middle class, and helping to eliminate the need to stay in subsidized housing without an end date.
This discussion has been closed.