Goodbye Reserve, Hello NY Guard

Residents of the northwest Bronx want the National and State Guard to ditch the Kingsbridge Armory annex for a soon-to-be-vacant building in Wakefield, the Muller Center (above). Photo by Rebecca Davis

National and New York Guard units currently stationed at the Kingsbridge Armory annex could occupy Wakefield’s Muller Army Reserve Center. The U.S. Army Reserve is set to vacate the 50,000-square foot building in 2011.

On June 12, at the request of Councilman Oliver Koppell, the state Division of Military and Naval Affairs mailed a letter of intent. Other entities have demonstrated interest. The Muller Center, on E. 238th Street, is subject to the Base Closure Community Redevelopment and Homeless Assistance Act of 1994. The Army Reserve has invited a Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA) to manage the building’s future. The LRA consists of the borough president, the deputy mayor for economic development and the deputy mayor for health and human services. The base closure act requires the LRA to account for Wakefield’s homeless population.

Kingsbridge residents are in favor of the National and New York Guard relocation, Koppell said. Kingsbridge is the heart of crowded School District 10. If the National and New York Guard vacate the armory annex, Koppell will push the Department of Education to step in. Community Board 7 and the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition have encouraged the National and New York Guard to scoot, Koppell said. The neighborhood could use four new schools; if the DOE agrees, it would likely build two.

“We’re excited to move the National Guard out of the armory [annex],” Koppell said.

The annex is located north of the armory on W. 195th Street. It won’t be affected by the “Shops at the Armory” rezone proposal now under review, CB7 district manager Fernando Tirado said. CB7 chair Greg Faulkner and School District 10 parent leader Marvin Shelton sound cautious. The Muller Center LRA must pick a tenant. The city must acquire the annex. DOE must cooperate. The swap, Faulkner quipped, is “not a slam dunk.”

“Even if the [annex] were to become available, we would need to persuade the mayor,” Shelton said.

Nonetheless, the June 12 letter represents progress. In the past, DOE has used the National and New York Guard as an excuse not to consider the annex, Faulkner said. Koppell and Wakefield residents are not adverse to the swap.

“It makes sense to keep the [Muller Center] military,” said Mary Lauro of the Wakefield Taxpayers and Civic League.

Other Wakefield residents want to secure the Muller Center for north Bronx youth. There is no youth center in Wakefield.

“Our children need the [Muller Center],” said Lincoln Maxwell of Gun Hill Road.

On Wednesday, April 29, the LRA hosted a workshop for supportive housing providers but borough president planner Wilhelm Ronda acknowledged that the National and New York Guard command a strong bid. The LRA held a public hearing on the Muller Center at the offices of Community Board 12 on Tuesday, June 23. The National and State Guard will abandon the annex only if the city pays for the move, spokesman Eric Derr said.

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