Trouble is yet again brewing under the soon-to-be ice at the Kingsbridge Armory.
The plan to turn the long vacant Armory into the world’s largest ice rink center has hit a snag in recent weeks, with the project’s developers now feuding with each other in dueling lawsuits over who will control and profit from the completed complex.
The City Council signed off 48-1 in December on the project, to be called the Kingsbridge National Ice Center. But now the development team has split and is squabbling in a public legal battle, with the city’s Economic Development Corporation still yet to finalize the lease on the cavernous Kingsbridge property.
Three former members of KNIC – the firm that promised the city it would fund the project with over $300 million in private money – claim that Kevin Parker, KNIC’s founding member, pushed them out after they shouldered the bulk of the work getting the project approved, according to a May 22 suit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.
The trio – Jonathan Richter, Jeff Spiritos and Marcus Wignell – used their expertise to spearhead the project “only to be wrongfully excluded from the Partnership business,” according to their court papers.
Meanwhile, Parker fired back in his own lawsuit in Bronx Supreme Court on June 5, claiming the former KNIC members have launched a “scheme” to sabotage the project and shake down money from Parker after leaving the development team of their own volition.
The trio of former KNIC partners even sent an email to EDC, the city’s economic development arm, in the midst of negotiations claiming that “you should be aware that Kevin Parker has no authority to act on behalf of KNIC Partners or KNIC Properties,” according to Parker’s lawsuit.
History of trouble
This month’s squabble is only the latest roadblock for the Armory, which has sat empty for decades as city officials’ attempts to redevelop it were stymied.
After two previous plans for the 180,00-square-foot site fell through, Mayor Bloomberg announced in April 2013 that the city had selected KNIC’s nine-rink ice center plan.
The project then breezed through the city’s land-use process when the developers signed a community benefits agreement, promising to pay workers a living wage and fund millions of dollars in local programs.
City: All is well
City officials are playing down the legal tussle. EDC spokeswoman Kate Blumm stated in an email that the city is “advancing contract negotiations to move forward with this transformative project, and in our current view, there are no significant delays from the original timeline.”
Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr – who championed the project through its approval process – was similarly optimistic.
“My office is confident that this greatly anticipated project will continue to move forward,” said the Beep, “and come to fruition as a definitive component of the ‘New Bronx.”