Column: Developing the Kingsbridge Armory at long last

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City Councilmember Pierina Sanchez tours the Kingsbridge Armory.
Photo courtesy Pierina Sanchez

Hello my people! Welcome back to “Sanchez Te Cuenta,” my column where I, Councilmember Pierina Sanchez, share updates on District 14 priorities, citywide concerns and current happenings. I use this platform to write about the issues impacting our city, from the perspective of a Bronx-born and raised urban planner and elected official.

Last column, I shared two opportunities to bring funding to the west Bronx. There are $5 million available for our community through the Civic Engagement Commission and $1 million directly from our office. Hurry, Nov. 9 is the deadline. Head to participate.nyc to submit your idea.

Tucked away on a busy commercial strip proudly stands the largest armory in the world, the Kingsbridge Armory. Built in 1917 initially for the New York National Guard and the size of four football fields, this tremendous public asset has laid largely unused for decades. Like many who were born and raised in the Bronx, I have witnessed the Kingsbridge Armory’s many phases and temporary uses, from music venue to COVID-19 relief efforts. Yet what the community has wanted is a permanent redevelopment of the armory for economic development. For too long, the armory has been a physical manifestation of the immense potential and aspirations of our community, and the community wants them realized. It has not been for lack of trying, two previous full-scale redevelopment attempts unfortunately failed – one to convert the space into a mall and most recently to convert the space into a National Ice Center. Yet, we will learn from the past and try again!

Together for Kingsbridge/Juntos para Kingsbridge

This week, I proudly co-launched “Together for Kingsbridge/Juntos para Kingsbridge,” a community-driven visioning process that will consist of a series of public workshops and engagements designed to provide information on the armory’s current condition, future opportunity and develop a shared understanding of how this tremendous public asset can support Bronx economic development priorities.

Any good planning process depends on a solid foundation.

In launching, we announced the building blocks of a successful redevelopment process for the armory. In-depth design and engineering studies will provide the city and public with a precise estimate of the remediation work necessary and will model adaptive reuse scenarios. A robust community engagement process anchored by neighborhood leaders, community based organizations and elected officials will ensure community priorities remain at the forefront. Finally, a $5 million capital investment from the New York City Council will serve to address the most immediate hazards facing the armory, so that it may be opened to the public during the redevelopment process. Together, these building blocks will set us on a successful path to finally redeveloping the Kingsbridge Armory.

The working group includes the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC), Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, elected officials and community groups working together to realize the catalytic potential of the Kingsbridge Armory to change the economic profile of the neighborhood.

How did we finally get here, and what’s next? Well, listen up as Sanchez te cuenta!

April 2022

A court ruling allowed EDC to regain full control of the Armory, following the failed Kingsbridge National Ice Center redevelopment plan.

June 2022

In collaboration with New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, my office allocated $5 million in the fiscal year 2023 budget to remediate immediate hazards at the Kingsbridge Armory.

September 2022

In September, we welcomed the United States Secretary of Labor – Marty Walsh on a tour, where he committed to partnering with the city and Bronx elected officials to create a workforce training program for whatever ends up in the space, calling the armory “a diamond.” This is what it is all about–government partners working in tandem to create an equitable and economically prosperous outcome for us Bronx people!

October 2022

To ensure a meaningful and intentional community engagement process, I invited the Mayor, EDC, and my elected colleagues to join with the community on a working group that will guide the redevelopment of the Armory. The working group will facilitate outreach with the community’s diverse population and develop a community-aligned vision document. A consultant team including Hester Street Collaborative and WXY Studio will support engagement and analyze the building’s condition and potential adaptive reuse scenarios.

November 2022

This is where you come in. The first public workshop is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 5 from 12 p.m.-4 p.m. at the PS 340 Annex, across the street from the armory. For more information about the workshops or to learn more about Together for Kingsbridge/Juntos para Kingsbridge, please visit kingsbridgetogether.com.

At the workshop, you will learn about the armory’s history and share your suggestions directly with the city and working group members regarding the community’s core principles, top goals and desired future. This workshop is critical to the process, as residents will work through their visions for the armory and the Bronx. As the council member co-leading this initiative, I believe our community has to be central to the process. What our people want must drive the redevelopment. So, my fellow Bronx people, what is our vision for the Kingsbridge Armory? Join us this Saturday and tell us.

Going forward

This fall and early winter, there will be several community visioning sessions as well as smaller format deep-dive discussions focused on particular sectors, e.g. health care, technology, etc. Following these public engagements, a vision document will be published, which EDC will use to initiate a competitive request for proposal (RFP) process, seeking proposals to redevelop the city-owned Kingsbridge Armory responsive to the vision document. Finally, because the Kingsbridge Armory is a city-owned property, the RFP winner will need to steward the winning proposal through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. The project is expected to have a large price tag, requiring large amounts of private capital, and may attract city, state and federal funding commitments.

The road ahead will be a lengthy one, yet we are starting on a strong, community-rooted foundation. Anyone interested in participating in the visioning process should reach out to the Office of Councilmember Sanchez at [email protected] and visit  https://kingsbridgetogether.com/get-involved for more information.

The Kingsbridge Armory is our economic beacon of hope, let us go through this process together.

Pierina Sanchez is a member of the New York City Council representing the 14th District and the communities of Kingsbridge, Fordham, University Heights, Mount Eden and Mount Hope. To read her last column click here

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