Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera has changed his tune once again on the plan to convert the vacant Kingsbridge Armory into the world’s largest ice rink complex.
Just weeks after he voted in favor of the development at a meeting of the Borough Board, Cabrera said at a City Council sub-committee hearing on Thursday, Dec.5 that he could not support the current plan until developer KNIC Partners addressed his last-minute concerns.
“I will urge my colleagues to vote no on this project,” he read from a statement at the City Hall hearing.
As the Council considers approving the Kingsbridge National Ice Center (KNIC) land-use application within his council district, Cabrera slammed KNIC for providing too little parking for locals and causing too much traffic congestion.
Cabrera said he is concerned that the facility will be clogged by traffic from residents from Westchester and Long Island. Those visitors won’t lug their ice skating gear on public transportation, he charged —leaving locals squeezed for parking spaces.
“The reality is that there won’t be enough parking,” he said at the public hearing.
The Councilman is under a cloud of suspicion after KNIC accused him of trying to shake them down in exchange for support. The developer had charged that Cabrera tried to extort $100,000 a year for 99 years to a dormant non-profit he was linked to. Cabrera’s spokesman denies the allegations.
At Thursday’s hearing, the project’s organizers claimed that Cabrera’s worries are unfounded. The Ice Center’s 457 parking spaces will be more than enough to accommodate visitors, they said.
The Ice Center expects to house 7,000 visitors a day, but skaters will trickle in over its 18 hours of being open.
“The people visiting will be spread out,” said Mark Messier, the former New York Rangers star who is now CEO of the Ice Center. “There won’t be an influx of 5,000-6,000 visitors over any single hour.”
Cabrera also charged that the development would cause massive traffic logjams in his district. Representatives from KNIC insist that they will monitor traffic and work with the Department of Transportation (DOT) to address problems.
The Councilman also criticized the project’s Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) for not providing funds directly to local merchants, who could face higher rents as a result of the new complex.
The City Council will have only a few days to deliberate over Cabrera’s concerns. The body is set to vote on the plan before the end of the month.
City officials inked a $275 million deal with KNIC in April to convert the armory into a nine-rink ice hockey complex and 5,000-seat arena. Since then, the project has endured a public review process.
Both the local Community Board and the Borough Board – where Cabrera voted yes – support the developer’s plan. KNIC signed an extensive Community Benefits Agreement that promises to hire locals, allot the community 50,000 feet of space and pay its workers a $10 living wage with benefits.