Ice Center a done deal

The plan to convert the long dormant Kingsbridge Armory into a major ice palace skated to easy victory Tuesday in a decisive City Council vote.

With local Councilman Fernando Cabrera jumping on board at the last minute, the Council’s 48-1 approval of the Kingsbridge National Ice Center (KNIC) puts an end to the cavernous space sitting empty and largely unused for 20 years.

The deal, with developers investing about $300 million, will bring nine ice rinks, as well as a 5,000-seat arena to the converted armory.

It also marks the end of an arduous public review process that had nixed previous projects.

“I look forward to this project’s completion, and the day when the Bronx can officially declare itself to be the premier ice sports destination in the United States, if not the nation,” Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said in a statement.

Traffic concerns

Four years ago, a proposal to turn the space into a massive mall was shot down by the City Council for not promising its workers high enough wages. The KNIC project seemed in danger of suffering a similar fate Thursday, Dec. 5, when Cabrera said at a Council sub-committee hearing that he could not support the current plan until KNIC addressed his last-minute concerns over parking, traffic and local businesses.

“I will urge my colleagues to vote no on this project,” he read from a statement at the City Hall hearing.

Cabrera’s vote was key because his district includes the area around the Armory. The Council often defers to the local representative on large-scale projects.

Flip-flopping official

The councilman had hedged on the Ice Center development over the last few months. In mid-November, he voted in favor of the project at a meeting of the borough’s community boards leaders and Council delegation members.

Just weeks later, he reversed course, slamming KNIC for providing too little parking for locals, causing too much traffic congestion and not providing funds directly to local businesses, who could face higher rents as a result of the new complex.

But hours before the Council headed into City Hall for the decisive Tuesday vote, the Councilman struck a deal with the developers and Mayor Bloomberg that all but sealed the project’s approval.

Last-minute deal

KNIC had already signed a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) that promises to hire locals, allot the community 50,000 feet of space and pay its workers a $10 living wage with benefits.

On Tuesday afternoon Cabrera announced that the developer had also agreed to fund a $250,000 “traffic mitigation plan” run through the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), as well as a $25,000 advertising campaign meant to encourage visitors to use mass transit.

That agreement may put an end to a contentious dispute between the developer and the Councilman.

Earlier this fall, Cabrera was 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 denied the allegations.

Ben Kochman can be reached via e-mail at BKochman@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742–3394

More from Around NYC

>