Lawsuit results from Armory’s stalled funding

Kingsbridge Armory
Community News Group / Steven Goodstein

The stalling of funding for a major renovation of one of the borough’s largest facilities has resulted in a lawsuit.

On Tuesday, April 12, KNIC, the developerment group that’s set to transform the vacant Kingsbridge Armory into the Kingsbridge National Ice Center, filed a lawsuit in Bronx Supreme Court against Mayor de Blasio and the NYC Economic Development Corporation for delaying the project and potentially putting it in jeopardy.

According to the 35-page lawsuit, the action charges the deBlasio administration’s with violating a contract entered into by the Bloomberg administration and diverting the rightful owner from their business opportunity.

The lawsuit also reads that mayor has ‘deliberately delayed the progress of the Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment’, and as a result, has ‘caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to KNIC.’

The suit alleges that NYCEDC had conspired with the project’s former principals and that NYCEDC is hoping that KNIC would default on its commitment so that the responsibility of the project could be passed on to Jonathon Richter, Jeff Spiritos and Marcos Wignell, the trio that used to handle the development of the project before KNIC took over.

KNIC, which is headed by retired New York Ranger Mark Messier and figure skater Sarah Hughes, has been negotiating with NYCEDC and the city to have the Armory’s lease released from escrow.

Back in December, the first $30 million in private funding (of the $138 million construction loan commitment) was publicly approved by the Empire State Development Corporation board of directors.

In February, ESD’s board of directors also approved a $15 million construction loan (of $130 million) to be used for a part of the capital cost for phase one of the Kingbsridge Armory renovations, allocated from Governor Cuomo’s New York Works Fund.

In total, the project is valued at about $350 million.

“Empire State Development Corporation remains committed to supporting the Kingsbridge National Ice Center, which will create over 400 jobs and return a long-vacant building to use,” said an ESD spokesperson.

According to an agreement with NYCEDC, KNIC was required to have secured $135 million in funding to begin phase one of the transformation.

As part of KNIC’s lease, KNIC agreed to secure binding commitments for the first $158 million of their project, but have only secured $15 million so far, according to NYCEDC.

“The Kingsbridge National Ice Center is a project that we have always supported and we’ve worked to provide assistance to the KNIC development team through all the challenges they have faces during this process,” said an Economic Development Corporation spokesperson.

“As an elected official representing this district, I am eager to see the (Kingsbridge) Armory transformed into a source of jobs and a source of pride in our community,” said Councilman Fernando Cabrera.

“I believe the NYCEDC is acting prudently and in the best interest of the city and the community in requesting that the necessary funds be secured. That being said, the project must move forward, as the (Kingsbridge) Armory represents too much promise for our community for it to continue to be left vacant.”

“I strongly urge the stakeholders to meet and find a way to work towards a solution,” Cabrera added.

The renovation of the nearly 800,000 square foot building would transform the vacant facility into an ice arena, which 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 would have a seating capacity of approximately 5,000, while the property would also include a 50,000 square foot dedicated community center, along with a 20,000 square foot health and training facility, 50 locker rooms, equipment storage as well as 450 on-site parking spaces.

The Kingsbridge Armory has been vacant since 1996.

Reach Reporter Steven Goodstein at (718) 260-4599. E-mail him at sgoodstein@cnglocal.com.

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