3 - 16, 2003
Decision on Armory Expected 'Mid-Summer'
By HEATHER HADDON
After months of inactivity, plans for developing the Kingsbridge Armory appear to be
getting the city's attention again. The Economic Development Corporation (EDC), which
oversees big development projects for the city, is expected to announce a decision on the
armory by mid-summer, according to officials.
"The Bloomberg administration is aware of how important this project is to the community,
and that the community wants to see movement on it," said Janel Patterson, an EDC
spokesperson. "We hope to have a decision by mid-summer after we have met with and
received input from all stakeholders."
Previous plans are still being considered, according to Patterson. "We are currently
examining our options and all proposals are on the table," she said.
But according to sources familiar with the project, one proposal in particular is leading the
pack. Originally submitted by RD Management, a shopping mall developer, the armory's
programs would be operated by its subsidiary, Basketball City. The company manages
large-scale sports and entertainment facilities, one located just north of Chelsea Piers on
Manhattan's north side. While RD, the favorite of the Giuliani administration, nearly sealed
the deal for the armory in 2000, the company's star faded when the mayor left office.
Bruce Radler, part owner of Basketball City, did not elaborate on the status of their
proposal. "We are still talking to the city," he said. "They're the ones who control the
The original RD plan included an entertainment space anchored by a multiplex movie
theater, retail stores, recreational space, areas for community facilities and a park. Through
their Jump Start program, Basketball City donates court time to local schools lacking gym
space. But the actual space designated for the community, at 36,800 square feet, is only 8
percent of the massive structure.
The need for a more community-focused armory, one that features schools to help alleviate
the area's overcrowded classrooms, has been a consistent issue with local groups. The
Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition has advocated its own plan for the
armory -- which includes 2,000 school seats along with space for shops, retail and
community space -- for the past five years. And School District 10 proposed putting
schools in the armory as far back as 1993, when the National Guard largely abandoned the
The Coalition's plan, originally conceived of with the Pratt Institute Center for Community
and Environmental Development, was recently strengthened by the addition of a national
developer, the Richman Group. The 25-year-old real estate company -- whose former
president, Bill Traylor, now works for the city's housing agency -- took on the proposal as
financially feasible and locally appropriate.
While things were looking good for the Richman Group, that momentum appears to have
slowed. No progress has been made since the group met with Deputy Mayor Daniel
Doctoroff's staff last year, and the School Construction Authority and EDC in March.
"We haven't heard much," said Ronn Jordan, a Coalition member and local resident.
EDC's cold shoulder might have to do with the percentage of the plan reserved for
community use. "Whatever is going to be there, it has to be self-sustaining," Patterson
said. "It has to generate enough revenue to pay for its operations. The heating costs are
quite high because the facility is so huge. You can't just put community facilities
But sources believe that RD has made more concessions to the community in its latest
proposal, increasing community-oriented space to 100,000-square-feet. RD has reportedly
joined forces with other developers, forming an organization called the Delta Group, to give
their proposal more muscle.
While Coalition members are clearly concerned about the current developments, they are
continuing to push their proposal as the best option for the Bronx. "The community is not
going to be able to afford the fees they charge at a place like Chelsea piers,"
The Coalition also believes that the public uses in its proposal can be self-sustaining,
considering that public schools come with a steady stream of public funds. Activists with
the group have also suggested that a federal bond program to renovate old buildings for
educational use - known as Qualified Zone Academy Bonds - could be put to
good use at the armory.
"We got to get these schools built," Jordan said.
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