Let armory battle begin

At an Industrial Development Agency hearing on March 5, Kingsbridge Armory developer Related Companies and Bronx community advocates sized each other up. The weigh in.

At a meeting about recreation space on April 29, Related and Bronx community advocates shared ideas. The glove touch.

On Monday, May 18, the City Planning Commission gave Related the green light and public review of the proposed armory shopping mall commenced.

“We are in our corner, Related is in its corner,” Community Board 7 chair Greg Faulkner said.

Ding! Let the Armory battle begin.

According to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is a fan of Related, the massive, century-old armory is a historical treasure, long under-utilized. The redeveloped building will offer retail, a public plaza, community space, restaurants, a recreation facility and a seasonal farmers market. It will create 1,200 permanent jobs and more than 1,000 construction jobs.

If the plan passes public review, Related will buy the armory for $5 million, invest $300 million and benefit from $60 million in tax breaks.

Meanwhile, CB7 and the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance – activists and labor reps plus the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition – are determined to secure a laundry list of specific benefits for the neighborhood: affordable housing, schools, target hiring at the new mall, a “green” armory design and living wages for retail workers. Most retail workers are parents, not students, KARA asserts.

CB7 and KARA want to negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement in addition to Related’s contract of sale. If negotiations fail, the armory could become a “poverty wage center.” CB7 and/or the borough president could attempt to block the proposal and the armory’s redevelopment could fall through.

Related lawyer Jesse Masyr has promised that the developer will not and cannot impose a living wage requirement on prospective retail tenants. According to Faulkner, CB7 won’t approve the mall unless Related offers community space to neighborhood non-profits at $10/sf or thereabouts. Related has suggested $20/sf.

Public review starts with CB7. At the CB7 general meeting on Wednesday, May 20, Faulkner and land-use chair Ozzie Brown unveiled a working CBA. Faulkner and Brown met with new Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. recently to discuss the armory. CB7, KARA and Diaz, Jr. need to work out a joint CBA soon. CB7 has until late July.

The CB7 working CBA includes housing, parks, environmental, transportation, labor and community space components. CB7 has suggested Related build the neighborhood a “Peace Atrium” and technology center at the armory.

Bloomberg is not a fan of CBAs. The new Yankee Stadium and Gateway Center mall boast CBAs, although both were criticized as “lacking teeth.” After CB7, the proposal will go to Diaz Jr., the Planning Commission, the City Council and Bloomberg for approval.

“Living wage is certainly going to be a focus when we sit down with the developer,” Diaz Jr. said.

CB7 will hold a public hearing on the armory soon.

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