PUBLISHED BY MOSHOLU PRESERVATION CORPORATION

Vol. 16, No.24  Dec. 4 - Dec.17, 2003



     
 

No-Show at Hearing Infuriates Carrion
Armory Future Discussed

By JORDAN MOSS

Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion chastised Mayor Bloomberg and other city officials for backing out of attending a Nov. 19 hearing on the Kingsbridge Armory at the last minute. 

Carrion said officials at the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) left him a message the day prior to the meeting that they weren’t coming. 

“I’m highly insulted by their absence,” Carrion said directing his comments 
directly at the television cameras present.

The hearing, held at the office of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (BOEDC), was the only public meeting on the fate of the landmark armory held since the National Guard turned over the keys to the city about a 
decade ago.

The hearing was intended to influence the city’s development of a request for proposals (RFP), which the EDC expected to complete this fall. 

Also notably absent at the hearing were Council Member Maria Baez and Assemblyman Jose Rivera, both of whose districts include the armory. Rivera did not return several calls requesting comment. 

According to EDC spokeswoman Janel Patterson, their absence, 
and perhaps that of Councilman Joel Rivera, whose district abuts Baez’, 
was the reason EDC sat the meeting out. “The mayor discovered that 
there were two council members who were not going to be able to attend 
and asked that the meeting be rescheduled,” Patterson said. 

Patterson said the city is in the process of “rescheduling” the hearing and that 
the city wants “get input from stakeholders” before issuing the RFP. Originally scheduled for release this fall, Patterson said the city had hoped “to issue it in early ’04.” “It is our intention to issue it as soon as possible,” she said. 

Carrion said he wanted to hold the hearing to get input from the grassroots. “We know the best kind of development happens from the bottom up,” he said. “I thought it was important that we have a public process.”

The borough president contrasted the process he said he’d like to see with a plan former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani favored to use the armory mostly for retail and 
recreation space. “We ended that administration with a plan that came from the top down,” Carrion said, describing the city’s attitude then as, “We’ll give you 35,000 square feet [for community space] and you should be happy. We know better and here’s the developer.”

Despite EDC’s absence, community leaders and local residents set out their 
vision for the facility — citing everything from a movie theater and a 
bookstore, to a sit down restaurant, a community swimming pool and an 
African-American cultural center. 

Most speakers agreed that the priority was including public schools in the mix of development. 

“We have a consensus from the neighborhood what is needed,” said Myra 
Goggins, a member of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, which has held community meetings and drafted proposals of its own, the latest in collaboration with The Richman Group, a developer. “The number one priority is schools.”

But with 575,000 square feet and the probability that public schools will be relegated to the perimeter of the facility, few of the other suggestions seem 
implausible. 

Gary Axelbank, a spokesman for Monroe College, said his school’s sports teams do not currently have a permanent home.

“Considering its proximity to our Bronx campus, which is five buildings 
in the area of Fordham Road and Jerome Avenue, an opportunity to locate 
our basketball facility at the Kingsbridge Armory is one we’d be interested in,” Axelbank said, adding that Monroe envisioned turning over their courts to the community when they were not in use by the college. 

Several speakers stressed that whatever retail stores are eventually included in the project should not compete with the area’s bustling commercial district on Jerome Avenue and Kingsbridge Road.

Rev. Katrina Foster, pastor of Fordham Lutheran Church, said there 
needed to be a “mix of business that will not put out of business 
stores that are already there.”

Carrion and BOEDC Executive Director Ray Salaberrios laid out some guidelines for potential developers. They should have experience dealing with landmarked properties and working with the federal historic tax credit. Carrion said the ability to establish private and public partnerships was also paramount. 

Carrion also said his office was talking with the Olympics 2012 Committee about 
the possibility of using the armory as a venue for track-and-field and other sports. 

The only other elected official present, State Senator Efrain Gonzalez, offered his vision to move the city’s Police Academy to the armory, reviving an idea that dates back to the Dinkins administration. (Mayor Giuliani killed plans for moving the Academy to the Bronx soon after taking office in 1993.) 

Many community members who spoke at the hearing objected to Gonzalez’ idea. Gonzalez said afterwards that if people’s objections were based on their concerns 
that the Police Department is not diverse, locating the Academy in a diverse community would begin to address that issue. Whatever ends up the armory, community leaders said the priority should be to create a facility that serves the community’s needs. “It should be seen as a servant facility for our community and not a cash cow for the City of New York,” said Pastor Robert Foley of Cosmopolitan A M E Church in University Heights. 

Carrion agreed. The end result should be a “package of uses that makes sense for the community [and] addresses the spectrum of life from cradle to grave,” he said.


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