The disagreement between the city and developers of the proposed Kingsbridge National Ice Center is now in court.
On Monday, May 16, it was time for both sides (Mayor de Blasio / the NYC Economic Development Corporation and KNIC) to lawyer up, as a court hearing was held as a result of a lawsuit filed last month.
The hearing was held before Judge Ruben Franco on the sixth floor of the Bronx Supreme Court.
Judge Franco ordered the city and state agencies to compose a letter stating that they are fully committed to a loan in order for construction and re-development to begin on what is believed to be the largest armory in the world.
The judge directed the letter to be sent to the Empire State Development Corporation, as well as the Public Authorities Control Board, by Monday, May 23, exactly a week after the initial hearing.
The city must draft the letter and KNIC must approve the letter. Franco also ordered that ESD and PACB must respond to the letter by June 1, just before the next scheduled court appearance on June 2.
Judge Franco stated that he, as well as the neighborhood, want to see this project move forward.
A plan to redevelop the Armory and transform it into the Kingsbridge National Ice Center was announced in 2013, following other plans for the Armory that were proposed as early as the mid-1990s.
The project’s financial progress began with $20 million in private funding and a $138 million construction loan commitment approved by ESD last December, followed by ESD approving a $15 million construction loan (of a $158 million total) towards phase one of the Armory’s renovations, which was approved in February.
KNIC filed a lawsuit against Mayor de Blasio and the EDC for violating the contract, diverting the rightful owner from their business opportunity and deliberately delaying the progress of the Armory’s development.
According to a letter that Mark Messier, KNIC’s CEO, sent to Alicia Glenn, deputy mayor for NYC Housing and Economic Development, KNIC has satisfied the terms of the escrow agreement imposed upon the company.
However, the executed lease and signed documents are still currently held in escrow, which has and may continue to delay and prevent KNIC from commencing construction.
Renovations on the nearly 800,000 square-foot, five-acre building would be intended for use by minor league and non-professional hockey teams, figure and speed skating, open skating times, instructional training as well as neighborhood, high school and college hockey leagues.
The main rink of the arena would have a seating capacity of approximately 5,000, while the property would also include a 50,000 square-foot dedicated community center, a 20,000 square-foot health and training facility, 50 locker rooms, equipment storage as well as 450 on-site parking spaces.
The project itself will support an estimated 2,700 construction-related jobs and create an estimated 820 permanent jobs.
For the court preceding, KNIC developers were represented by the law firm Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors, while lawyers from the NYC Corporation Counsel represented Mayor de Blasio and EDC.
“We are anxious for the opportunity to prove that our client has satisfied the terms of the Ecrow Agreement and is entitled to take delivery of the Kingsbridge Armory lease,” said William A. Brewer III, lead counsel for Kingsbridge. “Our client believes that EDC is improperly objecting to the delivery of the lease – for reasons that are obscure to us.”
“Given that this historic project will promote jobs and opportunity in the Bronx, it is disappointing that EDC continues to frustrate the desire of KNIC and the community to get trial proceedings underway immediately,” the attorney added. “We welcome the opportunity to bring the facts into full public view – and resolve any issues preventing the forward progress of this transformative project.”
Earlier this month, in honor of National Day of Prayer, a vigil was held in front of the Armory, in support of the project moving forward.