Vol. 19,  No.  11 June 1 - 14,  2006


Zerega Site May Hold Key to Armory Progress


A large industrial property in the southeast Bronx has emerged as a potential new home for two National Guard units now housed in the annex behind the Kingsbridge Armory.

According to a military spokesman, developers have submitted a proposal to move the units to a site in the Zerega industrial district south of Westchester Square that, as of right now, appears to meet the military’s requirements.

The Zerega site was mentioned by two developers at a small meeting with Community Board 7 members two weeks ago. Bill Traylor of the Richman Group and Peter Fine of Atlantic Development are considering buying the property, according to Board 7 chair Greg Faulkner, as part of a larger plan to redevelop the armory.

In an interview, Traylor acknowledged that his firm and Fine’s were looking at a site in Zerega. He said he would provide further details at a May 30 meeting of Community Board 7’s Land Use Committee.

Military spokesman Kent Kisselbrack said the Zerega proposal “appeared to meet requirements,” which includes eight to 10 acres of land and 30,000 square feet of building space. Federal regulations stipulate that the outpost must be 148 feet from a fence.

Relocating the Guard units has been the primary obstacle blocking redevelopment of the massive military complex, which is vacant aside from the annex buildings. Local officials and community leaders want to build four smalls schools in place of the annex structures along with a mix of recreation space and retail and entertainment outlets in the drill hall and head house, as the two main buildings are known. The Richman Group has worked closely with the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition in developing a proposal that includes those priorities.

Ideally, the two National Guard units – the 145th Maintenance Company and the 258th Field Artillery Unit – would like to stay in the Bronx, Kisselbrack said.

“This is a community-based outpost and we’d like it to remain community based,” he said.

On May 4, Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff toured the armory and vowed to begin the request for proposal (RFP) process by mid-August. The city’s Economic Development Corporation is in the process of forming a task force to shape the RFP.

On a break from contentious budget negotiations in Albany, local assemblyman Jose Rivera said that he’s pleased with the progress being made on the armory project.

“Things are beginning to move,” Rivera said from his cell phone.

A week after Doctoroff’s armory tour, which Rivera arranged, the assemblyman said he called Governor Pataki and implored him to continue to work on building momentum for the development project. In response, according to Rivera, Pataki said that the National Guard is ready to leave.

“I told the governor, ‘As soon as you finish up work in Albany, you can come make the announcement [in the Bronx] yourself.’”

The new proposed site for the Guard units – at Zerega Avenue and Hermany Avenue – would be perfect, Rivera said.

“There is a lot of vacant land there,” Rivera said. “Put it there and it doesn’t bother anybody.”

At the site, across the street from a gigantic New York Sanitation Department facility, is a building and lot controlled by Hermany Farms, a conglomeration of dairy and poultry companies. Amid the hum of refrigeration units, preparations for departure are under way. A Penske moving truck sits in front of a loading dock. At the same time, four employees of Westco, a Westchester company that specializes in dairy processing equipment, are slowly clearing out the dusty building.

No one seemed to know exactly what’s going to happen to the old plant, but certainly, change is in the air.

What does all the buzz surrounding the Zerega site mean?

“It means the city and state are really looking into it,” Rivera said.

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