Kingsbridge armory deal seems imminent: Mayor

Plans to build an ice hockey at the Kingsbridge Armory are on hold as legal battle continues between the developer and the city.
Courtesy of NYC EDC

Work on the proposed Kingsbridge National Ice Center at the former Kingsbridge Armory could begin in earnest this month if the state OKs the resources, according to the mayor.

Mayor de Blasio made the comment during a press conference on Wednesday, May 24 at Concourse Village Elementary School when asked by a reporter about the long-gestating project.

New York City holds the lease for the property, and has been reluctant to turn it over to the developer, due to what city officials believed was lack of necessary funding.

“It’s, I think, about to move forward very energetically,” the mayor said of the project. “All we need now is for the Empire State Development Corporation to authorize the resources which were approved in the state budget. My hope is they will do that at their June meeting. Then we’re ready to move forward with all the legal paperwork to make the project happen.”

The NYC Economic Development Corporation was ready to act on the project, de Blasio added.

“I think we’re one more step away from this thing happening and that step will happen next month,” he said.

The comments led many community leaders to assume he was ready to hand over the lease.

However an EDC spokesman cautioned the Empire State Development board meeting for June has not been scheduled yet.

An Empire State Development spokesman said the $108 million appropriated in this year’s budget will be released after the required public approval process, but could not give any timetable as to when that process would begin or end.

ESD already approved $30 million for the project the previous year, they added.

“The state has always been committed to revitalizing the long-vacant Kingsbridge Armory, which will bring hundreds of needed jobs to the Bronx,” the spokesman stated.

Senator Gustavo Rivera, who represents that area of Kingsbridge, said he was cautiously optimistic that the project would get the green light in the coming weeks and said he had long been a supporter of the project due to the community benefits promised by the developer, such as the community space and outreach programs.

“Everything that I’m hearing tells me we are moving in a very positive direction,” Rivera said. “So I have my fingers crossed that it will happen in the next month, but I’m not involved in the day-to-day conversation so I don’t know when, exactly, it will happen.”

Councilman Fernando Cabrera also said he hoped to see work on the project begin soon, and urged the state to take action.

“The armory is a very important asset that needs to be repurposed to serve the community’s best interest,” Cabrera said. “I look forward to advancing this project to maximum productivity.”

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz has also been a vocal supporter of the project, and has called on the city to expedite the project.

Calls to the assemblyman for comment were not returned by press time.

Governor Cuomo approved $108 million for the $350 million project in the state budget in January.

That funding would go towards phase 1 of the project’s construction, according to an Empire State Development spokesman.

The project, approved while Michael Bloomberg was still mayor, has been stalled in litigation between the development company, Kingsbridge National Ice Center, or KNIC, and the EDC since June of last year.

KNIC, led by developer Kenneth Parker and 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.

The new state funding was expected to help tip the city’s hand towards the developer.

The former Eighth Regiment Armory is located in Kingsbridge Heights at 29 Kingsbridge Road, at the corner of West Kingsbridge Road and Jerome Avenue.

The facility was once the largest military armory in the world, and the massive structure was completed in 1917 after five years of construction.

The five-acre property covers an entire city block and dwarfs everything around it.

It has sat vacant since 1996.

The planned facility will feature nine permanent indoor regulation size ice rinks, including a feature rink that can seat approximately 5,000 people and be used to host national and international hockey tournaments, figure and speed skating competitions and ice shows.

The project will also include 50,000 square feet of space designated for community use and 480 public parking spaces created in the basement level.

Other work at the site will be the creation of new ADA-compliant entranceways, new vehicle entranceways and solar panels.

The project is estimated to generate 890 construction jobs and 267 permanent jobs, according to the EDC.

Calls to Travis Carter, the attorney that represents KNIC, for comment were not returned by press time.

Reach Reporter Arthur Cusano at (718) 742–4584. E-mail him at acusano@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @arthurcusano.

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