BREAKING: Rent hikes near Kingsbridge Armory threaten local businesses

Lucy Saavedra, who was run a Jerome Avenue flower shop across the street from the Kingsbridge Armory for more than 20 years, holds up the notice that her monthly rent will be more than doubled in August. She says the rent hike will put her out of business.
Comunity News Group / Ben Kochman

The world’s largest ice rink complex is coming — but many local businesses likely won’t be there to see it.

Over a dozen shops in the shadow of the Kingsbridge Armory have been given an ultimatum from a new landlord — pay over double their current monthly rent or face eviction.

Mom-and-pop stores at at 2643-47 Jerome Avenue and 2-12 W. Kingsbridge Road, including a popular diner, African market and flower shop, received notices on July 9 that their rents would spike on the first of August.

And nearly all of the local businesses say the rent hike would wipe them out.

“Maybe a 10% percent increase would be okay, but double? I can’t do that,” said Ahward Narine of Jerome Avenue’s Pace Copy Center, which will close at the end of the month.

New owner, new plans

The owner of a W. Kingsbridge Road gift shop right across the street from the Armory said he dreaded the conversation he’ll soon have with his two children, who he is trying to put through college.

“I can’t even think about telling them we have to close,” said Shu Zheng of King’s Gift Shop. “I can’t sleep at night.”

The one-story building’s new landlord, Newkingsbridge LLC, sent out the rent spike notices through Yonkers-based property manager Levites Realty Management.

Levites did not respond to repeated calls for comment.

Pace Copy Center’s rent of $1,785 will rise to $4,000 at the end of the month. Neighborhood haunt New Capital Restaurant’s rent is being spiked from $7500 a month to over $14,000.

Lucy’s Flower Shop, which has served the community for over 20 years, is facing a rent hike of $1,785 to $4,000 per month.

All of those businesses said they had been denied over the last few years in their attempts to get long-term leases. They also said that the new property owner was only offering one-year leases.

“To make such a big spike, and only offer one year: it’s not realistic,” said George Vangelatos of New Capital Restaurant, which was served locals for 75 years.

Massive ice rink a-coming

City officials finally struck an around $300 million deal in November 2013 with KNIC Partners to develop the long-dormant armory into the world’s largest ice rink center.

Support from neighborhood stores was crucial in the final stages of the Kingsbridge National Ice Center’s approval. The final community benefits agreement the developers signed —winning crucial support from local Councilman Fernando Cabrera — included $250,000 pegged to fund capital projects for local businesses.

But the shops right across the street that have been around for decades now say they feel frozen out.

“We support that they are doing something better with the [armory],” said Saaverdra, of the flower shop. “But now they want to kick out the same people that supported the project.”

The businesses are now meeting with lawyers to brainstorm their options for staying open.

‘This is unfair to the businesses and to the community,” said Chris Ramos, vice president of the Kingsbridge Road Merchants Association, a coalition of the strip’s shops. “We will fight this to the end.”

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

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