Major R. Owens Health and Wellness Community Center. Photo: Google Maps.

The construction of a new community center on Bedford Ave. is creating tension in the City Council race and in the Crown Heights neighborhood it calls home, according to THE CITY.

The Major R. Owens Health and Wellness Community Center, a recreation facility complete with hundreds of adjoining apartments, was approved under the leadership of outgoing Democratic City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo.

Slated to wrap construction in August and open to the public this fall, the building, which will feature about 60% affordable housing, has come under fire from tenants’ rights activists, who say it will accelerate the displacement of longtime residents in an already rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.

In an opinion article published by Bklyner last November, Democratic City Council candidate and former Cumbo staffer Crystal Hudson called the project “a disgrace.”

“Anytime we have publicly owned land, we should be developing 100% affordable housing,” she told THE CITY.

But despite her outspoken criticism, Hudson has had to defend her connections to the outgoing councilwoman’s land-use voting record. And in the race to replace the term-limited Cumbo, Hudson is not the only candidate voicing concerns about private development in the neighborhood.

Democratic candidate Michael Hollingsworth, a member of the Crown Heights Tenants Union, has made the rec center’s development a central campaign issue.

“The jig is up,” he said. “We know that these developments are never beneficial to our communities — not in terms of the jobs that they’re ever promised, and definitely not in terms of actual housing for members of the community.”

Hollingsworth has opposed the project — and Cumbo — for years. He decided to run for office in January 2020, when a group of activists were arrested while protesting illegal construction near the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Hollingsworth’s fellow organizer, Esteban Girón, says it’s time for someone who represents Crown Heights residents to serve on the City Council. 

“We had been talking and, you know, just having conversations like ‘somebody should really step up and run, somebody should take this on, we don’t want to spend another eight years dealing with somebody like Laurie Cumbo,’” Girón said.

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