GENTRIFICATION PAPER #4

Trump Won the White House -- let’s Keep Him Out of the Bedford Union Amory

BFC Partners claim that the Bedford Union Armory will benefit the Black and Jewish communities of Crown Heights, while principal Joseph Ferrara is proud supporter of Donald Trump -- the presidential candidate endorsed by the Klu Klux Klan. 

BFC Partners is named for its three principals – Brandon Barron, Joseph Ferrara, and Don Capoccia. Don Capoccia is a long-time Republican, as is Ferrara. Both contributed significantly to Rudy Giuliani's mayoral campaigns [1] - for which BFC Partners was rewarded handsomely.[2]

Last December, the luxury developer was awarded the right to build new housing on a city owned site in Crown Heights – a historically Black and West Indian neighborhood.[3] At the time, principal Joseph Ferrara called the project a “transformative development for the community.”[4] BFC claims that their project at the Bedford Union Armory will be good for Crown Heights, with principal Don Capoccia saying to DNAInfo in November 2016 that it will be “a real focal point for the community.”[5] 

When Ferrara says that the project will be “transformative,” we agree: the project – which caters to a more affluent, more White population -- will help to accelerate gentrification and displace the immigrant and Black population of Crown Heights out of existence. 

The 330-unit development, which will be built on public land, will only be 50% rent restricted. And of those 50% “affordable” units, only 18 of them will be actually affordable to the people who live in Crown Heights.[6]

Crown Heights is a community of immigrants – a historically diverse Black and Jewish neighborhood. Not only is BFC Partners taking over city owned land and fueling gentrification – a process that pushes people of color out of their longtime homes – the luxury developer is a proud supporter of Donald Trump – the presidential candidate endorsed by the KKK. Principal Joseph Ferrara in fact believes that people who do not support President-Elect Trump should “GET OUT!”[7]

BFC Partners’ unwillingness to stand up against racism and misogyny should make them unqualified to develop housing on public land in an immigrant neighborhood. At a time of racial tension and fear, New York City should be using its scarce public resources to fight the hatred and fear espoused by Donald Trump. Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo and the EDC (Economic Development Corporation) should revoke the award of the Bedford Union Armory project to BFC Partners, reissue the RFP, and demand true affordability. 

As the photos gathered in this report demonstrate, BFC partner Joseph Ferrara is a loud and vocal Trump supporter -- despite the fact that the campaign traded in blatant racism and misogyny. 

Ferrara supported Trump as early as the New York State Republican Primary (photo above) [8], and his support continued through the general election – even as the campaign rhetoric became more divisive and more racist. On Ferrara’s Instagram, photos of BFC construction sites (tagged #BuildingEmpire) are interspersed with photos of the luxury developer stumping for Trump.

Developers like BFC Partners, who are apparently not bothered by White supremacy at the highest levels of the federal government, should not be permitted to develop luxury housing in Crown Heights, a majority Black neighborhood that is facing immense gentrification pressure -- pressure that is already threatening to eliminate the Black population. 

 The same week (August 22nd, 2016) that reporters exposed the racism of Trump campaign staffers’ Twitter accounts (including how staffers declared that Muslim people are unfit to be US citizens) [9] Joseph Ferrara posted a photo on Instagram displaying crude Trump campaign merchandise he “couldn’t help himself” from purchasing.[10]

Ferrara’s enthusiasm for Trump did not abate as Trump’s racist rhetoric escalated throughout the campaign. He took to Instagram and Twitter celebrating the election night victory, and, on Twitter, warning non-Trump supporters to “GET OUT!”[11]

Within a few days Ferrara commented to Staten Island Live that Trump’s real estate experience can only be viewed as positive for the country. 

“President-Elect Trump is one of the most successful businessman in the world. A real estate Tycoon. The night of the election as it began to appear quite obvious that America was leaning Republican, the global markets were trending downward,” [12] said Joseph Ferrara, principal of BFC Partners.

“President-elect Trump has only been promoting the explosion of new industry in America, and the results of being successful at that could only bolster an already healthy market.”[13]

Joseph Ferrara admires Donald Trump’s record as a real estate mogul, despite the fact that Trump is well known for violating civil rights housing laws.[14]

From Joseph Ferrara's Instagram account.

In the two Instagram posts above, Ferrara celebrates the election of a White Supremacist to the presidency. In the tweet below, Ferrara calls for people who are offended by Trump’s divisive and dangerous rhetoric, appointments of White Supremacists to key cabinet positions, threatened mass deportations, Muslim watch-lists, brags about violence against women, and threats to defund whole arms of government should just be quiet. People who are offended by Trump’s presidency probably include the people that Ferrara intends to displace from Crown Heights -- people he claims to support.

We shouldn’t be surprised that Joseph Ferrara is unwilling to stand up when confronted with racism. He is one of the founding partners of the Blue Heron Humanitarian League, a non-profit organization based on Staten Island.[15] In 2010, the Blue Heron Humanitarian League threw a Halloween Party where guests dressed up in blackface, and as a caricature of Native Americans.[16]

Since Trump’s election, hate crimes are on the rise in New York City [17], including in Crown Heights, where a swastika was recently spray painted on a Brooklyn sidewalk.[18] In this racially charged environment, New York City needs housing developers who are truly willing to stand up and fight for racial justice – and who will build housing that people of color can actually afford. 

It is irresponsible for New York City to allow developers that support White supremacy in the White House to build our affordable housing. Crown Heights is a community of immigrants and a historically Black neighborhood. 

In a time of extreme racial animosity, the path forward is clear: Laurie Cumbo and the EDC must reissue the RFP and demand that the project go to a non-profit who will respect the housing needs of the local residents – immigrants and people of color. 

From Joseph Ferrara's Instagram account.

From Joseph Ferrara's Instagram account.

Footnotes:

[1] Information obtained from FEC Individual Donor Reports
[2] http://nypost.com/2000/02/19/top-dem-rudy-razed-garden-for-upporter/
[3] http://www.nycedc.com/press-release/nycedc-president-torres-springer-borough-president-adams-council-member-cumbo-and 
[4]  Available on file at NYCC and retrieved on November 21, 2016 https://www.instagram.com/p/_Z9fH4gpbU/ 
[5]  https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20161115/crown-heights/bedford-union-armory-west-indian-day-parade-plan-office
[6]  http://www.therealgentrifiers.org/gentrification-papers/2016/8/5/gentrification-paper-3 
[7]  Available on file at NYCC and retrieved on November 21, 2016 from https://twitter.com/GioNYC1/status/796307623884845056
[8]  Available on file at NYCC and retrieved on November 21, 2016 from https://www.instagram.com/p/BEZ47axApXO/
[9]  http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/trailguide/la-na-trailguide-updates-ap-trump-campaign-staff-makes-racist-1471900054-htmlstory.html
[10]  Available on file at NYCC and retrieved on November 21, 2016 from https://www.instagram.com/p/BJRTYDVhqrP/  
[11]  Available on file at NYCC and retrieved on November 21, 2016 from https://twitter.com/GioNYC1/status/796307623884845056
[12] http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/11/uncertianty_for_staten_island.html
[13] Ibid.
[14]  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/28/us/politics/donald-trump-housing-race.html
[15] http://bfcnyc.com/profile/joseph-ferrara/
[16]  Available on file at NYCC and retrieved on November 21, 2016 from https://www.facebook.com/Blue-Heron-Humanitarian-League-158021184215503/photos_stream
[17] http://nypost.com/2016/11/17/hate-crimes-in-nyc-dramatically-rise/
[18] https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20161113/crown-heights/swastika-crown-heights-crossed-out-with-warning-nazi-scum-be-afraid