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Passionate debate takes hold at armory meeting

Passionate debate fueled by deep concerns led to an invigoratingly informative Kingsbridge Armory stakeholders meeting on Wednesday, July 16 at Lehman College.

“We achieved our goal,” Community Board 7 district manager Fernando Tirado said about the 150 plus meeting attendees from area churches, labor unions and educational institutions, among others, that voiced both their worries and excitement over the large scare armory redevelopment plan.

“Everyone was able to discuss their concerns and be heard,” Tirado explained. “It was very much a success.”

Following a handful of varied small group discussions, the crowd listened to a presentation from the NYC Economic Development Corporation and the project’s developer Related Companies.

After viewing the proposed floor plan, Tirado said, “We like that they’re going to incorporate LEED standards for a green building.”

Also in the plans for the approximated $310 million  “Shops at the Armory” project is the addition of 25-35 retail stores, a rooftop open space and a landscaped public plaza at the intersection of W. Kingsbridge Road and Reservoir Avenue.

Even with these plans in place, the majority of people loved the idea of incorporating a large youth access space into the 575,000-square-foot facility, such as a YMCA.

Unfortunately, the crowd’s support dramatically declined when the topic changed to food.

“One of the things that did come up as a major concern was a large scale food market being the anchor store at the facility,” Tirado explained.

As local storeowners worry the plan would put them out of business, other residents expressed concern about how a market could affect the already alarmingly high Bronx obesity rate. Tirado said, however, the benefits of a large food venue would far outweigh any community harm.

“The Board’s position is there aren’t enough healthy food options in the Bronx,” he explained about the dire necessity to introduce more fresh produce into the borough’s poorer areas that traditionally lack such nutritious options.

Plus, he added, “We all believe that competition is good and it raises the bar for all of the businesses.”

Tirado said overall the meeting was a great opportunity to hear from local residents, and he looks forward to bringing their ideas to Related at the Kingsbridge Armory Taskforce.

Community Board 7 is currently planning a second stakeholder meeting.

As of press time, Related was not available for comment.

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