Armory clears first hurdle

Now it’s the Borough President’s turn.

With Community Board 7 voting unanimously to approve construction of the Kingsbridge National Ice Center, the exhaustive Uniform Land Use Review Procedure moves on, landing on the desk of Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

But this round is anti-climatic as Diaz came out early in support of the world’s largest skating rink to the Kingsbridge Armory, which he’s expected to fast track it to the next stage.

Diaz has touted the benefits to the plan since Day One, believing living wage jobs and the lofty scope of the project was a win-win for the neighborhood.

The majority of CB7 agreed during its general board meeting Tuesday, September 17 at Lehman College, with members voting 20-5 in favor of KNIC.

“It just goes to show the community and KNIC partners joined hands a long time ago,” said developer Kevin Parker, fist-bumping KNIC CEO Mark Messier after the vote was tallied.

The board approved the project after rejecting the Land Use Committee’s recommendation to shoot down the plan over traffic and envrionmental concerns.

Locals praised the merits of the plan during a hearing before the vote.

“Thank you for choosing the Bronx and not Brooklyn,” said Elizabeth Quaranta, a school teacher expressing optimism to KNIC brass.

“What did this community get out of the project?” asked board member William Francis, who voted against the plan.

He argued the board ignored issues of traffic concerns related to KNIC. “I don’t care about a project that’s not in favor of the community.”

After the borough president’s vote, the plan will advance to to the City Planning Commission, taking into account the BP’s and Board’s recommendations.

Francis, a long life Bronx native, believes the real vote will come in the City Council, with councilmembers likely to bow to the wishes of local Councilman Fernando Cabrera – should it reach the Council.

The board vote came days after KNIC named Messier as head of the rink.

He appeared to be a shoo-in for the post, given his hockey connections and relationship to Parker through The New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund, where he and Messier are board members.

Parker was especially impressed by Messier’s commitment to highlighting the hallmarks of KNIC’s after-school program modeled after the Philadelphia-based Ed Snider program, which uses the game of hockey as a metaphor for life.

“A lot of people ask the question ‘Why hockey in the Bronx?’” said Messier. “One of the things we want to say is, don’t focus on the hockey. This is an opportunity for your children to learn life lessons through hockey…and to become better citizens.”

The project boasts nine rinks, a 5,000-seat arena, indoor parking and healthy snack bar.

Clearances for the project have begun with the city Landmarks Preservation Committee approving eco-friendly solar panels atop the roof.

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

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