18, No. 14
14 - 27, 2005
Pataki Tours Armory
Pols Hope He’ll Help Move Guard Units
By HEATHER HADDON
Pataki made his first visit to the Kingsbridge Armory last week, touring the
facility with Bronx officials who are eager to advance the stalled project.
Local leaders and activists were buoyed by the event, but Pataki failed to
offer specific solutions to the hurdles that remain.
The key stumbling block to the armory’s redevelopment, as it has been for a
year, is finding a suitable location for the two National Guard companies
stationed in the building’s annex on West 195th Street, where new schools
are likely to take root. While the state is willing to move the units,
someone must first identify at least a 30,000-square-foot space for them in
“The Bronx has played a critical role in protecting US security,” said
Pataki during a press conference after the tour. “[The companies] are not
going to leave here without a new space.”
Pataki said no one has yet found an alternative location, but Assemblyman
Jose Rivera, who orchestrated the visit, indicated that he is exploring a
possibility in Soundview. “I’m pushing for this,” Rivera said.
But that site seems problematic. Formerly a manufacturing plant owned by
Loral Electronics, a defense contractor, the land may need an extensive
environmental cleanup to remove toxins. The site has already surfaced in the
mayoral campaign as candidate Fernando Ferrer lambasted the Bloomberg
administration for opening a school on a portion of the site. Rivera said
that Peter Fine, a major developer he is close to, has submitted a bid on
It’s unclear who is responsible for finding the Guard a new home. Pataki
said the city, specifically the Economic Development Corporation (EDC),
promised to find a spot back in 1996, but never followed through. EDC has
repeatedly said over the last year that there are no new developments
concerning the armory. Pataki offered assurances that the mayor is well
aware of the armory project and he added that all the officials present
would work together to address the relocation issue.
Local officials expressed impatience. “It’s a very unique opportunity and I
don’t think we can wait anymore,” said Bronx Borough President Adolfo
Carrión to Pataki as they toured the annex. “Elected officials are all
standing together on this.”
Bronx leaders, along with the School Construction Authority (SCA), came to a
consensus last year to build schools on the site of the armory’s annex. Most
borough officials now support the development plan formulated by the
Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, which includes 2,000 school
seats, recreational facilities, a theater, parking, and commercial spaces
like a bookstore.
At Rivera’s prompting, Ronn Jordan, the Coalition’s president, presented
Pataki with the group’s plan, although the state may have little to do with
the specifics of the redevelopment plan. “I see an end in sight,” said
Jordan, who accompanied officials to a business luncheon with Pataki after
the event. “The governor seemed really positive about this.”
During the tour, Pataki expressed concerns about coming up with enough
funding for the massive project. The last estimate to rehab the armory was
$110 million, not including work on the annex. Structural issues have since
worsened, with flooding in the subterranean floors and damage to the
building’s foundation. “The cost could be very high,” Pataki said.
In the Coalition’s plan, much of the development costs are underwritten. The
SCA has pledged to take out a long-term lease for the annex schools, acting
as a financial anchor for the project. The city has allocated billions for
new school construction, but education officials have failed to identify
The Richman Group, a private real estate developer, agreed in 2003 to pursue
the Coalition’s plan for the armory. They have since identified potential
financial backers, and if their proposal were selected, the company would
sink roughly $200 million into the project, according to Jordan. “They think
it is financially viable,” he said.
Pataki publicly pledged to continue working with local officials on the
armory. At lunch, he agreed to discuss the project with the mayor, and City
Council members said they would do the same with EDC, according to Jordan.
Rivera said he brought up the armory while meeting with EDC two weeks ago.
“We’ve been supportive on the Jets and Yankee stadiums,” he said. “We need
city government to come through here.”
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