|Vol. 13, No. 6
||March 23 - April
Coming to an Armory Near You
Operators of Manhattan
Sports Complex Hope to Score in Bronx
By JORDAN MOSS
choosing RD Management to redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory, the city
cites the company's experience
in developing retail space throughout the country. But planners also
point to an RD subsidiary, Basketball City, as a reason why it thinks
the company is perfectly suited for the task at hand.
While the RD plan does not include any space for schools, as desired
by community groups and Community School Board 10, Basketball City,
which will operate the renovated facility if it gains final approval
in a land-use review process, says its programs in the landmark building
will fulfill another important community need -- recreational facilities
Basketball City operates an athletic facility contained in a giant
bubble just north of Chelsea Piers on the west side of Manhattan.
It has six hard-wood basketball courts that double as volleyball courts,
the most under one roof anywhere in the city. While most users and
leagues pay for the courts, Basketball City launched Jump Star,t a
nonprofit that donates court time to local schools lacking gym space.
Currently, about 11 schools use the space at no charge, courtesy of
Jump Start, which was founded by Bruce Radler, part owner of Basketball
"We saw that we had a wonderful facility [but] basketball is
an inner-city game and a lot of people might not be able to participate,"
Radler says. So, the best way to get those people playing basketball,
he explained was to "set up a foundation to tap into our corporate
clientele." Now companies like BlackRock Financial Management,
Bank United Corporation and Capital Trust make donations to Jump Start
to give school kids court time.
Also, working with local schools and community centers, Jump Start
launched a program last year to award kids scholarships to summer
and holiday basketball camps run by professional ball players.
Tommy Hemans, director of the Public School Athletic League, says
Jump Start is fulfilling a growing need in the city's school system.
Many schools have sports teams with no place to play, Hemans said.
"There's a definite need for this kind of facility in New York
City," he said. "I would heartily endorse any effort that
would lead to the expansion of these kinds of services."
Radler and partner Gary McEntee say they want to bring Jump Start
to the sports facility they hope will take root in the armory. Even
so, community residents who support using the space to build three
public schools worry that, aside from any donations of court time
Basketball City may make to the community, fees for its sports facilities
will be out of the range of local residents, many of whom receive
McEntee and Radler say they understand their Bronx audience will be
different than their Manhattan one and said they will adjust prices
They also see the recreational facilities as the beneficiary of the
income they will receive from the retail portion of the property.
"We intend to operate the recreational facilities more as an
amenity to the community," McEntee said.
Basketball City recently opened a recreation complex in Boston and
also has plans to develop a facility on the east side of Manhattan
near the Manhattan Bridge. Because of plans to build the Hudson River
Park along the west side, Basketball City will eventually have to
vacate its current site. Basketball City's lease expires in 10 months
but McEntee says his company plans to exercise two two-year options
to renew, which would allow it to stay put until 2004.
But John Doswell, chairman of the Friends of Hudson River Park, says
local community and environmental groups hope to burst Basketball
City's bubble by pushing the Hudson River Park Trust, an entity created
by the city and state to construct the waterfront park from Batter
Park City to 59th Street, to develop the site Basketball City is on
much sooner than 2004.
Whatever happens, McEntee says their status on the west side is not
relevant to their desire to develop the Kingsbridge Armory.
"We're interested in armory for it's own benefit," McEntee
said. "Those two don't piggyback on each other."
In picking RD and Basketball City and their team of architects, builders
and environmental consultants, the city's Economic Development Corporation
(EDC), pointed to the experience of team member Turner Construction
and an environmental consulting company it partly owns in retrofitting
a Naval facility in Washington, DC. That building is of similar vintage
to the armory, but had greater environmental problems, according to
an EDC official.
Radler and McEntee and the RD team are busy trying to put all the
pieces in place to realize their plans for the armory. According to
McEntee, RD has 120 days from the date of the "designation letter"
from the city to secure tenants for the retail space they have planned
for the armory. EDC officials would not comment on the precise date
of that letter.
Now that the city has given RD the ball on the armory project, the
plan will have to navigate the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure,
which will require the approval of several levels of city government,
from the community board to the City Council. Local elected officials,
however, seem to be offering their tentative support for the plan,
pending negotiations around the addition of two public schools in
Meanwhile, McEntee said he recognized that his organization has not
done the work of reaching out to local Bronx residents, some of whom
oppose the RD plan. But he said he plans to do that in the coming
"I want that dialogue and we want that input," McEntee said.
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