Vol. 12, No. 21 Nov. 4 - 17, 1999



     
 

Carrion Blasts City's Armory Planning Process Says Community is Locked Out

By JORDAN MOSS

aarmony.jpg (17024 bytes)Tired of waiting for the Giuliani administration to include him and the community in its deliberations over the fate of the Kingsbridge Armory, Councilman Adolfo Carrion (D-Fordham) is making his displeasure public.

"I'm very angry about the fact that this administration is being secretive about this process and I'm prepared to make a stink about it now," Carrion said in a telephone interview. "I came at this with a willingness to work with the administration. They've done nothing to include me as a representative of this community in a meaningful, substantive discussion about the future of the armory." Carrion's district includes the armory.

Last March, the city administration formed what it calls a "working group" of officials from several city agencies to address the fate of the deteriorating landmark, which was vacated by the National Guard in 1994. Carrion lobbied for a seat on the committee, but he said he's never been invited to any of its meetings.

Asked how many times the working group has met, Jennifer Chaitt, a spokeswoman for the Department of City Planning, one of the agencies involved, said, "It met three times over the last four to five months."

Chaitt added that "the working group discussed the condition of the building and measures for protecting the building from continued deterioration."

The Department of Design and Construction (DDC) has completed a pre-preliminary observation report of the armory, which estimates that $15 million in repairs are needed to stabilize\ the facility. Chaitt said DDC was in the process of completing a more comprehensive engineering study.

Meanwhile, at least three preliminary development proposals have been submitted to the city. The Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, which is collaborating with Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development (PICCED) on a redevelopment plan, acquired two of the proposals through a request under the Freedom of Information Law.

However, Carrion said he believes that another proposal, which has not been released, has been submitted to the city's Economic Development Corporation (EDC). "The truth is that there's a proposal that's being considered by EDC and nobody knows what it is," Carrion said. A spokeswoman for EDC did not return a call seeking comment by press time.

The two other proposals were submitted by Rosenshein Associates, a Mamaroneck-based developer of shopping malls, and the Oval Economic Development Corporation, an entity associated with former city councilman Israel Ruiz. (Ruiz occupied the seat now held by Carrion.) Both groups said they have not heard back from the city after they submitted their proposals last spring. The two plans call for, in varying degrees, the combination of retail commercial space with educational and community uses. Kathy Zamechansky, the head of a public relations firm working with Rosenshein, said she expected the city to issue a formal request for proposals before seriously considering the initial submissions.

The Coalition/PICCED proposal appears to include the most space for schools with three 600-seat schools provided for. Joan Byron, an architect at PICCED, said she believes the joint plan, which proposes a green market, an athletic complex, and a community center, has already succeeded by influencing the other development packages being suggested. "Now everybody is saying 'schools,'" Byron said. "Every proposal makes a token gesture at including schools."

With the help of a grant from the Booth Ferris Foundation, the Coalition and PICCED are drafting more extensive drawings and a proposal with a "greater level of detail," Byron said.

The pressing issue for Carrion, however, is securing community input into a major redevelopment project with tremendous implications for the neighborhood.

"This community has not had an opportunity to participate in a meaningful way, either through the community board, the borough president's office or the task force," Carrion said. "We haven't been able to have a voice in the future of this development that's going to have a huge impact on our lives. It's a huge project with a major impact on a neighborhood and we've yet to even come to the table."

As for the nature of that "stink" he plans to make, Carrion was coy, but promised, "The noise level will be high."

Ed. note: All Norwood News articles about the Kingsbridge Armory published over the last 18 months appear in Ongoing Stories.

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