Kingsbridge Armory off ice - on to the ice

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Now the developer has to make good.

With a sigh of relief, the city finally picked one last week for the long dormant Kingsbridge Armory, now set to be the world’s largest ice skating complex.

The project, estimated at $275 million in private funds, will hold nine skating rinks, a 5,000-seat concert hall and in-house parking inside the 750,000-square-foot property.

But as the Kingsbridge National Ice Center looks to attract a national presence to the largely poor community, they’ve assured locals they won’t be overlooked.

That’s partly thanks to a community benefits agreement signed last week, a pact agreed between KNIC and 30 community groups.

The CBA legally assures the developer will hire locally, create a business incubator, a 50,000-square-foot community space, and pay a $10 living wage with benefits to all 267 rink employees, with any retail tenants inside the armory also paying the same.

“That’s huge,” said Alice McIntosh, head of the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance. “Traditiona­lly, you never had developers who compelled their tenants to also pay a living wage.”

Community space

She, along with the Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition, was especially impressed by the allocation of the community space.

“Where you going to get community space like that for $1 a year?” she said of the yearly nominal rent KNIC agreed to pay the city as part of the 99-year lease agreement.

McIntosh sat at the negotiating table in early February when CBA talks lumbered for hours.

At the Tuesday press conference announcing the deal, KNIC founder Kevin Parker said he refused to “put a moat around [the Armory] and be an island in the middle of the community.”

“If you want to be a part of the community, you have to give back to the community,” said Parker. “Giving back to the project was something right from the get-go.”

Most of the CBA stipulations were already in KNIC’s response to the New York City Economic Developent Corp.’s Request for Proposal for armory development.

KNIC also proposed a free after-school hockey program.

Community groups are not blocked in the CBA from suing if KNIC reneges on the CBA.

Schools in question

But officials at the news conference skirted the issue of putting in a sports-themed school. Community activists have pushed to see an annex next to the armory currently used by the National Guard converted to much-needed school space. Moving the guard unit out “would be a decision that the state would have to make,” said NYC Economic Development head Seth Pinsky.

Years to go

The armory has both major environmental and structual issues, which could run into the millions as part of the $275 milllion development cost before it can finally open sometime in 2017.

The deal still has to go through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, with advisory approvals - or rejections – by local Community Board 7, the borough president and the city Planning Commission. The City Council will make the final decision. That process has a roughly eight-month deadline.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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CNG: Community Newspaper Group