Armory businesses feel the ‘chill’

Kingsbridge Armory-area shops can still afford their rent — but for how long is a mystery.

Over a dozen mom-and-pop businesses across the street from the Armory — soon – to be a world-class ice center — are crossing their fingers that their building’s new management will offer them a long-term lease.

For now, the stores at 2-12 W. Kingsbridge Road and 2643-2647 Jerome Avenue are still stuck in month-to-month leases until December, said Chris Ramos, vice president of the Kingsbridge Road Merchants Association.

Merchants are at least happier with their September situation than they were in July, when new management company Levites Realty sent out notices demanding doubled rents. But the local shops, including the popular New Capital Restaurant on the corner, as well as a nail salon and African grocery, are not exactly feeling comfortable.

“I can’t say how long we are staying, but they can kick us out whenever they want,” said a business owner of another shop on the strip, who declined to be named for fear of being specifically targeted by management.

A pair of businesses have already bitten the dust. A tax office and gift shop have decided to leave the building and pursue other options, said Ramos.

The rest of the shops plan to wait it out until December, before pushing for a new lease of at least three years, said Ramos.

“In January, we need to sit down and have a new lease,” Ramos said.

Levites, the management company, has yet to respond to repeated requests for comment from this newspaper.

But an unofficial liason between the shops and the new management claimed that the two sides were at least talking.

“They all absolutely know where they stand now, more than they did before,” said Steve Lorenzo, a broker with real estate firm NAI Friedland.

Lorenzo says he has spoken with the building’s new management, though he is as of yet not on their payroll.

Lorenzo said that many of the shops were paying below market-rate rents, and should be willing to accept some sort of rent increase for a “prime” location across the street from the Armory.

He added that the building’s new management has already started investing in new utilties at the site.

“These are professional landlords, and they will treat the tenants professionally,” he said.

And while the businesses across the street sweat it out, the Armory itself remains vacant for now.

Developer KNIC closed a deal with the city in December 2013 to convert the vacant Armory into the world’s largest ice rink center. Developers are targeting a 2017 opening date. But construction has not yet started on the complex, with three former members of the development team currently squabbling in lawsuits over control of the project.

Reach Reporter Ben Kochman at (718) 742–3394. E-mail him at bkoch‌man@c‌ngloc‌ Follow him on Twitter @benkochman.