The Kingbridge Armory’s head developer and his former colleagues continue to grapple in court, nearly nine months after the city approved a plan to convert the space into the world’s largest ice center.
And though the developers of the Kingsbridge National Ice Center (KNIC) are still shooting for a 2017 opening — and recently announced $30 million in new funding — an official lease has yet to be signed with the city, meaning neighbors are still left wondering when construction will begin.
But there has been some movement forward for Kevin Parker, the former Deutsche Bank executive and KNIC founder, since the legal tussle began this summer.
A New York State Supreme Court judge dismissed in July an attempt from three of Parker’s former colleagues — headed by Jonathan Richter, a financial executive at Deutsche Bank and former president of KNIC — to halt KNIC’s negotiatons with the city, according to court documents.
The former colleagues — who also include Jeff Spiritos and Marcus Wignell — filed court papers on May 22 in New York Supreme Court claiming that Parker squeezed them out of a financial stake in the project, after they used their expertise and worked pro-bono hours to spearhead it. The trio sought, among other things, a “temporary restraining order” that would have stopped the city lease process in its tracks.
But on July 15, Supreme Court Judge Eileen Bransten dismissed that request, according to court papers reviewed by the Bronx Times Reporter.
Richter’s lawyers had claimed that Richter, Spiritos and Wignell were rightful partners in the ice center project — a claim backed up by KNIC’s former name, KNIC Partners.
But the LLC filings for KNIC do not show a legally binding partnership agreement between Parker and his former colleagues, said Parker’s lawyers, from the firm Bickel and Brewer.
Judge Bransten appeared to agree in her decision.
“If you don’t have an agreement, it’s a bit like having one hand clapping with no other hand,” said Bransten during a public court hearing in June.
Richter’s lawyers are now appealing Bransten’s decision in the New York State Court’s Appellate Division, according to court papers filed August 11.
The lawyers, from firm Fox Rothschild LLP, maintain that squeezing out Richter and his partners — who they dub the “Richter Action Plaintiffs” — will jeopardize the entire development.
“Absent an injunction from the court, the Kingsbridge Armory Project will be placed in severe jeopardy, to the detriment of not only the Richter Action Plaintiffs, but the City of New York and the prospective users of the Kingsbridge Armory,” they wrote in an August 18 court filing.
KNIC’s lawyers claim that Judge Bransten’s decision allows the lease process to proceed smoothy — though the overall lawsuits have likely slowed down the process.
“Has it stopped it? No,” said William Brewer III, Bickel and Brewer’s co-founder, of the litigation. “Did it have some effect? Yes, it’s probably fair to say that it did.”