Vol. 12, No. 24 Dec. 16 - 29, 1999



     
 

Community Board Hears Armory Proposal
Carrion to Meet with Planning Commissioner

By JORDAN MOSS

A subcommittee of Community Board 7 was presented last week with a development proposal by Rosenshein Associates, a Westchester developer of shopping malls. The plan calls for a number of uses at the landmark structure, including a large shopping mall, a 17-screen movie theater, athletic facilities and two schools on the building's northern and western perimeter.

Representing the firm was Lisa Rosenshein who detailed her firm's ambitious plans to develop 200,000 square feet of retail space at the armory, two schools at 20,000 square feet each, two levels of parking and two to three levels of retail, entertainment and sports facilities. The top level of the two schools will connect to the sports fields which will be on top of the commercial section. A 16,000 square foot library is also part of the plan.

"We are still a work in progress," Rosenshein said, referring to her plan. The company is in the process of developing a more complete proposal, she said.

Members of the Community Relations/Long Term Planning Committee of the board raised some questions with Rosenshein and her team, which included architect Robert Langford of CP&A/ARQ, which designed Concourse Village Day Care Center and three Bronx early child centers, and Kathy Zamechansky Associates, a Bronx public relations firm.

Don Bluestone, the committee's chair, expressed concerns about the level of traffic generated by the project and its effect on the borough's already sky-high asthma rate. Bluestone also pointed to a shopping center and move theater complex on East 161st Street which Rosenshein was involved with that now reportedly has empty stores and a deteriorated parking facility. "Would this [the armory] be a situation you stayed with because obviously you left that one?" In response, Rosenshein said her firm hadn't been involved with the project since 1993 and that "unfortunate economic" times were partly to blame for its failures. The company has also been involved in large retail projects in Bay Plaza and in New Jersey.

Mary Dailey, the executive director of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition and Joan Byron, an architect with Pratt Institute who has been helping the coalition draft their own blueprint for the building attended the session. (The group was invited to present its plan at a Jan. 11 meeting of the committee.) Dailey and Byron made distinctions between the two plans. The coalition's plan calls for three 600-seat schools within the existing structures of the armory, whereas the Rosenshein plan only accommodates two schools of a similar size on its exterior. Also, Rosenshein said her company's plan involves no public money. The Coalition is eyeing federal education funds recently appropriated by Congress and other government sources for the construction of the three schools, monies they believe will make it easier to finance the mammoth project. The coalition plan involves some commercial uses, but much less than Rosenshein's. It also incorporates more community uses, including a community center and a park and green market.

At the meeting, Kessler said the plan fit the community board's interests. "Rosenshein are the only ones offering a proposal that was desired by the community board," she said. "That's why they're here, because it's a proposal that we wanted."

Lisa Rosenshein has also met with Community Board 7's district manager, Rita Kessler, Bruce Irushalmi of School District 10, and the district's lawyer, Stanley Schlein, to discuss the plan. "We shared with them as we have shared with many others the educational needs of that segment of the community in the hope that whatever outcome occurs at the Kingsbridge Armory meets those needs," Irushalmi said.

The community board had planned to vote on sending a letter at its Dec. 21 meeting supporting "the proposed concept of mixed uses for the Kingsbridge Armory as presented by Rosenshein and Associates, subject to the input and approval by the community, the Community Board and School District 10." However, Karen Argenti, a resident of Kingsbridge Heights and a former chair of Community Board 7 told the Norwood News at press time that Kessler told her the motion regarding the letter had been withdrawn.

Kessler was not available for comment at press time
.
Argenti, who has long been active in the fight against the filtration plant, said she opposes the type of mixed-use proposal Rosenshein put forward.

"I can't have a mixed-use in my neighborhood," Argenti said. "We need schools
and we can't have children going to school where there's a mixed use."

Argenti is particularly opposed to the movie theatre concept. "Don't talk to me about movie theatres in the armory when you have empty stores on Fordham Road," Argenti said. "And that has the infrastructure to hold a big movie theater. [Kingsbridge Heights is] a neighborhood. Community people live here. We can't be having all this traffic."

In other armory news, Home Depot is said to be interested in the facility, but the board appears to be opposed to that. " I'm against the concept of one store, especially a big store that's going to put anyone out of business," Bluestone said.

And despite all the local interest in the facility, the city is reported to be developing a plan without community input. Eldin Villafane, a spokesman for Councilman Adolfo Carrion, said his boss has a meeting scheduled with City Planning Commissioner Joseph Rose some time in January, but until now the lawmaker has been locked out of the process.

"All we know is that they are meeting, they are planning and they are discussing," Villafane said. "But they're not including people from the community, the councilman and other leaders in the district."

Carrion, who has threatened to hold up anything the mayor proposes in the Land Use Committee if it does not involve community input, hopes to broker a deal that is a "mixture" of plans developed locally, Villafane said. "Adolfo's idea is to negotiate an agreement that is beneficial to for all these parties."

Ed. note: An archive of articles about the Kingsbridge Armory appearing in the Norwood News over the last 18 months, is available on our Web site: www.bronxmall.com/norwoodnews. Click on "Ongoing Story."

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