Agency Declares Armory Unfit
By JORDAN MOSS
Acting on a request from another agency, the New York City Buildings Department inspected the Kingsbridge Armory on Nov. 23 and declared it "unsafe and [in] imminent peril."
"It must be repaired or demolished immediately," the city warned in a letter to New York State.
Repair work on the building's crumbling brick facade and the erection of fencing around its perimeter is now being conducted by the city's Department of Housing, Preservation and Development.
However, a dispute involving the ownership of the facility could complicate future plans to rehabilitate the facility for community or commercial use.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, the agency with jurisdiction over the facility, said the city "has not accepted the formal transfer" of the armory from the state.
But P.C. Kutschera, a spokesman for the state Division for Military and Naval Affairs/National Guard Headquarters in Albany, lobbed the ownership of the ailing landmark back downstate.
"The operation and ownership of the Kingsbridge Armory is with the City of New York," Kutschera said. "The property was formally transferred to the city on Nov. 1, 1996 under the provisions of state military law."
Kutschera cited state legislation "providing for state maintenance until military use ceased at the facility. Under this law, the reversion to the city, once that military use ceased, is automatic." The National Guard vacated the armory in 1994.
Ilyse Fink, a Buildings Department spokeswoman, says her agency determines the ownership of buildings through the city Department of Finance, and in this case records indicated that the state owns the armory.
Community residents active in the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition have been working with architects at the Brooklyn-based Pratt Institute to draft a long-range plan for the armory that would include schools, community programs, and some commercial uses. In the past, some elected officials have floated the idea of transforming the building into an amateur athletic facility.
Adolfo Carrion, the city councilman for the area, said it was do-or-die time at the armory. "I really think that we're at the verge of either doing the right thing and giving it attention and putting resources into the building, or demolishing it by being neglectful, and it's something that has happened across the city with a number of sites," Carrion said. "What we need to do is emergency surgery on the patient and that's going to require our full and complete attention and the expenditure of resources that we've already allocated in the city budget."
Carrion said the Giuliani administration is playing "ping pong" with those resources, $30 million that was originally tagged for the armory by the Council.
That allocation was eventually whittled down to $25 million and is in a more general pool of funds labeled "reconstruction of buildings citywide," according to DCAS spokeswoman Denise Collins.
Though $2 million in Council armory rehab funds can be spent in Fiscal Year 1999 which began last July, the $25 million is not budgeted until 2002, according to Collins.
Though continuing to lobby the Giuliani administration on the matter, Carrion is frustrated by the red tape engulfing what is becoming a tremendous eyesore in his district.
"We may get to a point where I'm going to call for extra hearings with regards specifically to the Kingsbridge Armory and then call on all agencies who have any jurisdiction and begin to pull off the layers," he said.
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