Legal Aid Brings Litigation Challenging City’s Development Plans for Bedford-Union Armory Lawsuit also Contests City’s Method Assessing Role of Development on Tenant Displacement

The Legal Aid Society filed a lawsuit today in New York County Supreme Court contesting the City’s development plans for the Bedford-Union Armory located in Crown Heights, Brooklyn – a neighborhood that maintains one of the largest numbers of rent stabilized apartments in New York City. The lawsuit also challenges the methodology the City uses to evaluate the potential for residential displacement in land use decisions.

For months, community organizations, housing advocates, tenants’ rights groups and local residents have called on the City to devise a plan that is truly affordable for the current community of Crown Heights, exclusively serves a public purpose, and is devoid of taxpayer giveaways to real-estate. The proposal in its current form fails to meet those standards and it will only exacerbate the potential for displacement as Crown Heights continues to gentrify.

Lawsuit Details

Per existing law, the City is required to analyze the impacts of proposed development including the risk of residential displacement. In evaluating displacement, it uses a guidance document called the City Environmental Quality Review Technical Manual. The Manual assumes that only residents in unregulated apartments are vulnerable to displacement, not those in regulated units. This assumption does not reflect the current reality in every borough: tenants in regulated and unregulated buildings alike are vulnerable to displacement pressures.

The law suit argues that the Technical Manual has never been properly promulgated as a rule because the public and other City agencies have not had the opportunity to review and comment as required by the law. The result is that the City consistently adheres to a false premise in assessing land use decisions - the premise that rent regulated tenants are not vulnerable to displacement.

The problem with Bedford-Union Armory plan will be replicated time and again as long as the City continues to use a methodology that is inconsistent with the reality faced by New Yorkers, who know that gentrification puts all tenants at risk of displacement, not just those in unregulated buildings.

The litigation was announced at a press conference on the steps of City Hall with other organizations and individuals including New York Communities for Change, Crown Heights Tenants Union, Tenants and Neighbors, lawsuit plaintiffs and others.

The full City Council is expected to vote on the Bedford-Union Armory land use application at its Stated Meeting on Thursday, November 30, 2017.

“The City’s methodology not only puts Crown Heights tenants at risk but others barely making rent in every borough,” said Judith Goldiner, Attorney-In-Charge of the Civil Law Reform Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “The current proposal sets a dangerous precedent, and it will worsen displacement if left unchecked. Our concerns have been raised continually with the City but to no avail. Gentrification affects all apartments – regulated or unregulated - and the City’s land use decisions need to factor in that obvious reality.”

"In the last decade our neighborhoods have lost tens of thousands of rent stabilized apartments, a fact the city willfully ignores when implementing its rezoning proposals. This is further evidence that the administration’s housing plan neglects low income communities in favor of pushing a gentrification plan that prioritizes private developers. NYCC is proud to stand with residents of Crown Heights and the Legal Aid Society to challenge the City’s methodology and call for a new rezoning plan that puts low income tenants' needs first," said Jonathan Westin, Director of New York Communities for Change.

"Tenants & Neighbors joined this lawsuit because we are opposed to market-rate housing on public land. We believe that a market rate project of this magnitude in this neighborhood will lead to displacement of both unregulated and regulated tenants. The Mayor must radically shift his housing agenda so to provide housing for low income New Yorkers and to protect tenants from being displaced from their neighborhoods through gentrification. We hope this lawsuit will highlight the displacement pressures that the Mayor's housing plan has created for communities across New York City,” said Katie Goldstein, Executive Director, Tenants & Neighbors.

"The Bedford-Union Armory plan doesn't meet reality: the Crown Heights community is in dire need of true affordable housing, not market-rate luxury rentals, and public land should never be given away to private developers. A new homeless shelter now stands a block away from the Bedford-Union Armory. Instead of housing us like cattle, 100% affordable housing for working-class Crown Heights tenants must be built in our community. Ebbets Field is two and a half blocks away from the Bedford-Union Armory and has suffered over 1,000 evictions which equates to 5,000 tenants. How can this plan not accelerate that crisis. This plan, and the decision-making process that created it, screams of unfairness: it's a plan to continue to build housing for the rich, and to speed up the displacement of longstanding tenants who are the heart and soul of Crown Heights,” said Crown Heights Tenants Union founding member and lifelong Crown Heights resident Donna Mossman.


The Legal Aid Society is a private, not-for-profit legal services organization, the oldest and largest in the nation, dedicated since 1876 to providing quality legal representation to low-income New Yorkers. It is dedicated to one simple but powerful belief: that no New Yorker should be denied access to justice because of poverty.