The long-delayed plan to turn the Kingsbridge Armory into a nation’s largest ice skating facility got a major infusion of funding from Governor Cuomo in his State of the State presentation in Albany on Monday, January 9.
Empire State Development, New York’s economic development arm, will provide $108 million to the project, to “bring new life to the century-old armory and transform it into a hub of economic activity and commercial potential,” an ESD announcement explained soon afterwards.
The former Eighth Regiment Armory, as it was formally known, is located in Kingsbridge Heights at the corner of West Kingsbridge Road and Jerome Avenue, and was the largest military armory in the world until it closed 1996.
The almost 5-acre structure has loomed over the Kingsbridge neighborhood vacant and neglected for most of the years since.
Longtime Cuomo ally and borough president, Ruben Diaz Jr., welcomed the proposed funding for the armory, as well as an additional $10 million put aside to renovate the historic pavilion and build a performance space at Orchard Beach.
“I am thrilled that Governor Cuomo has offered his support to major Bronx proposals and institutions, specifically the reconstruction of Orchard Beach and the future of the Kingsbridge Armory,” Diaz stated. “These projects are top priorities of my administration and have the overwhelming support of Bronx residents.”
However, Diaz criticized what he saw as a lack of partnership and enthusiasm for the projects from City Hall, and urged more cooperation from Mayor de Blasio’s administration.
“We can only hope now that the administration will see the wisdom in bringing these projects to fruition,” he stated.
The project, approved while Michael Bloomberg was still mayor, has been stalled in litigation between the development company, Kingsbridge National Ice Center, and the NYC Economic Development Corporation since June of last year.
KNIC, led by former New York Ranger star Mark Messier, filed a lawsuit alleging breach of contract against the EDC for failing to turn over the lease to the property to the developers so they could acquire financing.
However the EDC had argued the developer needed to acquire adequate funding before the lease was granted.
A New York Supreme Court judge sided with the city last month, but an appeal by the developer was expected.
However, Cuomo’s funding would likely be enough to convince the EDC to turn over the lease to the developer.
“This announcement affirms the state’s commitment to revitalize the long-vacant Kingsbridge Armory, which will bring hundreds of needed jobs to the Bronx,” said ESD spokeswoman Amy Varghese.
The state funding would go towards Phase 1 of the project construction, Varghese said.
Anthony Hogrebe, spokesman for the EDC, said the department appreciated the state’s proposed funding and looked forward to receiving additional details.
Another longtime project proponent, Senator Gustavo Rivera, called the project an economic engine for the surrounding neighborhoods.
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz has been pushing for the project to get up and running for years.
A spokesman said he was still reviewing the governor’s plan and could not yet comment on the proposal.