19, No. 7
Apr. 6 - 19 , 2006
Some Progress on Stumbling Blocks At
By HEATHER HADDON
A packed community meeting on the Kingsbridge Armory last month
has spurred movement among city and state leaders on the long stalled
Officials in the mayor’s office and the city Economic Development
Corporation (EDC) have shown new signs of engagement in the project, and a
potential developer has identified a possible site to house the two National
Guard units based in the landmark’s annex. Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, the
mayor’s development czar, is slated to tour the building soon, and Governor
Pataki has promised to designate a staff liaison for the project, according
to Assemblyman Jose Rivera.
“We’re not going to back off on this,” said Rivera, in an interview last
week. “Something has to give.”
The new developments, which are the first tangible ones since the governor
visited the armory last summer, arose out of the March 22 forum. The
meeting, which was organized by the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy
Coalition, drew nearly 200 Bronx residents, merchants, union members and
church leaders. Felix Ciampa, a senior EDC staffer, and Matthew Wambua, from
the Mayor’s Office of the Empowerment Zone, were in attendance, as were
Rivera and a representative from the Richman Group, a city developer
advancing a proposal for the armory.
Attendees rallied behind seven specific goals for a future development,
including constructing four small schools, providing a mix of retail,
entertainment and recreational space, and creating local jobs. Twelve
community organizations and churches, along with Rivera and the Richman
Group, endorsed the resolution and many of them have joined to form the
Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance.
Father Joe Jerome, the pastor at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church, which
hosted the meeting, said all the goals are important. “We know there is
inadequate space for schools and recreation,” he said.
Fazila Deen, a nearby merchant, thinks the agreement will bring needed
amenities and more foot traffic to the area. “It would be good for the
business people,” said Deen, an owner of J & F Auto Parts on Jerome Avenue.
The Richman Group’s proposal, which the Coalition collaborated on, includes
these amenities. They are now looking to ensure they will be met regardless
of the developer, as the city has said that it will open up the project to a
bidding process. The Richman Group is the only developer known to be openly
interested in the project, but that could change when a request for
proposals (RFP) emerges.
Ronn Jordan, the Coalition’s president, said city officials seemed positive
about the principles, and, more importantly, the sense of unity behind them.
“They had heard rumors that not all the elected officials were on board with
it,” said Jordan, who met with Ciampa, Wambua and Rivera to further discuss
matters the next day. “They see that this project has come a long way.”
But EDC is still sounding a note of caution. “While we are impressed and
appreciative of the enthusiasm and support shown by the attendees of last
weeks’ meeting … we also need to work with other stakeholders,” including
the borough president, local City Council members and the community board,
said the agency in a statement.
The EDC does seem supportive of the Coalition’s general development goals.
“[The proposal should] meet as many of the criteria of the residents, local
businesses and alliances and elected officials as possible,” said the
Advocates hope that mix doesn’t include a police academy, which has been
among the ideas the city has been considering. That concept is locally
unpopular, and reportedly doesn’t have the police commissioner’s support. “I
think they are revaluating that suggestion,” Rivera said.
There also seems to be progress in finding another home for the armory’s two
National units, which remain in the building’s annex on West 195th Street.
The Richman Group is in the initial stages of exploring an alternative Bronx
site for the Guard. The company came upon the undisclosed location with help
from Peter Fine, a big city developer allied with Rivera.
“We’re trying our best to be proactive,” said Christopher Cirillo, Richman’s
vice president. The EDC has repeatedly said that the state must approve a
site for the units before moving forward with an RFP. They also want the
state to identify funds for the “acquisition, development and maintenance of
the new site,” the statement said.
The governor and the city have made little visible progress in these areas.
While meeting together, city officials asked Rivera to help get the state to
put more energy and money behind the process. Rivera called Pataki and got
him to agree to assign a close staff member to liaison on the project. “I
told the governor we need some leadership here,” Rivera said.
At press time, Jordan said he was nailing down a date for Doctoroff’s armory
tour. Mayor Bloomberg has yet to see the massive complex himself.
Armory advocates think the project is a natural for an administration drawn
to big development projects, including controversial ones like Yankee
Stadium and the Bronx Terminal Market. “This is the only project that no one
is fighting over,” Jordan said. “Not doing it would be foolish.”
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