BATTLE IN BUSHWICK: NONPROFITS SPAR OVER OFFICE SPACE

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The Brooklyn Cooperative Federal Credit Union could soon be homeless, after a long and messy eviction brought by its former parent agency, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, Inc., a local affordable housing developer.

On Tuesday, a civil court hearing will decide whether Ridgewood Bushwick can oust the credit union in order to move forward with a major rehabilitation of 1475 Myrtle Avenue, already delayed by over a year. The project has a strict deadline of Dec. 2006 for completion, said Scott Short, Ridgewood Bushwick’s deputy housing director. If the credit union doesn’t move out immediately, it could lose its tax credit funding.

“It’s very frustrating that a stubborn group could threaten to undo [this] development,” he said.

Though the credit union has already signed a lease on a new office nearby, that space also requires renovation work, expected to last until December. The credit union has asked Ridgewood Bushwick for an extension and offered to pay market rate rent until its new office is complete.

But that doesn’t change the deadline, said Short. Besides, he added, there’s no guarantee that the credit union will actually have a finished office in December. “As of three weeks ago, they didn’t even have permits,” he said. “There’s no way their space is going to be ready in a month.”

Ridgewood Bushwick took over the building from the city in March 2004. According to Short, it immediately asked the tenants–the credit union and four families–to vacate by July 2004. The families were quickly relocated, but the credit union had trouble finding a new space.

“We scouted locations and referred them to brokers but they weren’t able to make a deal,” he said. “They weren’t satisfied.”

Jack Lawson, the credit union’s manager and financial officer, recounts a slightly different timeline: He says he didn’t get an official move-out date until August 2004, when the credit union was asked to leave by December of that year. And he disputes the idea that his group was too picky. “Rents are really high and our budget is really small,” he said. “We have a lot of senior citizens and disabled people who needed it to be located close [to the current location].”

Lawson doesn’t fault Ridgewood Bushwick for wanting to vacate the building, but wonders if the groups’ shared history is coming into play. Though the credit union was a project of Ridgewood Bushwick when it was formed in 2000, it severed ties with its former sponsor in 2003. “If they have the power to extend the deadline and they don’t, that sure does feel like retribution,” he said.

Short called that notion “ridiculous.” “It was always our intention and always our hope that the credit union would become financially independent,” he said. “We’re glad that they’re on their own.”

–Cassi Feldman