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Vigil encourages prayer for Kingsbridge Armory

Bronx Times
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And now we pray.

The stall in the Kingsbridge Armory development process brought the local residents together in prayer.

On Thursday, May 5, a clergy and community prayer vigil was held in support of the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory to transform it into the Kingsbridge National Ice Center and in honor of National Day of Prayer.

The vigil, which took place in front of the Armory at West Kingsbridge Road and Davidson Avenue, was in support of a lawsuit that was filed last month by KNIC against Mayor de Blasio and the NYC Economic Development Corporation for violating the contract, diverting the rightful owner from their business opportunity and deliberately delaying the progress of the Armory’s development.

At the vigil, the gatherers, which included Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., Community Board 7 chairwoman Adaline Walker-Santiago, Rev. Que English and Celia Cruz High School of Music Women’s Choir, among others, participated in an ‘hour of prayer’ for renewed optimism of a project that is currently in limbo.

“We gather here in support of this transformative project and its visions to benefit our community,” said Rev. English, pastor at the Bronx Christian Fellowship Church. “We will issue a call to action to the city - to get behind the ice center and its promise to create new jobs and opportunit­ies.”

Rev. English is a signatory to the Community Benefits Agreement, which guarentees living wage jobs and additional resources to community-based organizations as a result of the Kingsbridge Armory’s future redevelopment.

“We pray today because we realize that this isn’t about EDC vs. KNIC - it’s about destroying the economic future of our community and its children as well as the project’s potential $1.9 billion in economic impact to the northwest Bronx and the city as a whole.”

“We appreciate the community’s support of this transformative project,” said Mark Messier, former New York Ranger and CEO of KNIC. “Our collective vision is to make this dream a reality - to create jobs, foster economic opportunity and introduce the magic of ice sports to future generations.”

Upon it’s completion, the Kingsbridge National Ice Center will be the world’s largest indoor ice sports facility. The project will support an estimated 2,700 construction-related jobs and produce an estimated 820 permanent jobs.

“The economic impact of this project will not only create new jobs, but also re-purpose a long dormant landmark,” said Diaz, Jr. “It is now time for this project to move forward and it is now time to bring the Kingsbridge National Ice Center to the Bronx.”

“My students are not just learning how to skate - they are learning how to have more personal confidence and self-esteem,” said Martha Martinez, a teacher at P.S. 86, located just across the street from the Armory. “They are developing positive peer interactions and are learning to have higher expectation for themselves.”

The project’s financial process began when the first $20 million in private funding of the $138 million construction loan commitment was approved by the Empire State Development Corporation’s board of directors in December.

In February, ESD also approved a $15 million construction loan (of $158 million in total) to be used towards phase one of the Armory’s renovations.

The renovation of the nearly 800,000 square foot building would transform the facility, which has been vacant since 1996, 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 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.

National Day of Prayer, held on the first Thursday in May, is recognized nationally as a day of observance. Meditation and prayer are encouraged.

A court preceding between KNIC and EDC is scheduled to take place in the Bronx Supreme Court at the Bronx County Courthouse, 851 Grand Concourse, on Monday, May 16 at 10 a.m.

Reach Reporter Steven Goodstein at (718) 260-4599. E-mail him at sgoodstein@cnglocal.com.
Updated 5:03 pm, July 9, 2018
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