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Armory developers mum on money

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As the city mulls two rival plans to redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory, both developers are ensuring they have deep pockets to get their projects up and running.

But the financial details have not been up for public disclosure or discussion.

Developers generally agree with lenders not to disclose the specific financial terms until a project receives official public backing.

Questions over the financial vitality of the two firms could be an issue after a recent Bronx financial development debacle by Ceruzzi Holdings.

The Connecticut-based developer failed to come through on a deal to take over a city-owned piece of Riverdale property in 2009 after coming short on the needed cash. The setback forced the city to re-issue another RFP, stalling the project.

The organization behind the armory recreational/mixed-use entertainment complex known as Mercado Mirabo have also made promises to pay a living wage to a fifth of their employees.

Youngwoo & Associates, the group peddling Mercado Mirabo, say they have the funding needed to jumpstart its $100 million plan should it be chosen by the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

“Financing is not an issue for us and never has been,” said YWA’s Adam Zucker.

The group recently pitched their idea to an investment firm, who inked a commitment to doling “a sizable chunk” of money to the Mercado venture.

Greg Carney, a partner with YWA emphasized the firm’s “never failed on a project we committed to doing.”

A KNIC spokesman ensured developers have the $250 million needed for its massive hockey rink venue that features a 5,000- seat arena, yet did not return calls for further comment.

But Mercado Mirabo promised 175 of their 982 full-time employees a $10 living wage, matching what KNIC promised to give all 175 of its employees.

The living wage promise was a selling point for Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who came out supporting the ice rink along with NHL hockey legend Mark Messier in August.

NYCEDC, which oversees the 285,000-square-foot castle, requires both firms to break down where their financial sources before working with the city. The terms were stated in the request for proposal outline presented to both sides.

Those questions, however, were not raised at a recent armory community input meeting at Monroe College on Thursday, Oct. 11.

Competing developers went before a skeptical mix of residents and various special interest groups who lodged a flurry of questions for the two developers.

Members from the Northwest Bronx Community and Coalition asked both sides whether they would sign a community benefits agreement that provides guarantees for the community, including health coverage to armory employees.

Zucker said YWA would sign a letter of intent with the community to “solidify a commitment to their principals so that they know they’re getting a deal they could count on.”

KNIC’s Jonathan Richter echoed the same sentiment, though he said the KNIC plan already has community benefits in place. Among them is an after-school hockey club modeled after a successful Philadelphia program.

Richter said KNIC plans to build a 750-student school along a parcel of land currently occupied by the National Guard. Yet for Richter to deliver on that promise he would have to file a separate RFP, with the National Guard unit having to find a new home.

Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383 or dcruz@cnglocal.com.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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CNG: Community Newspaper Group