Vol. 19,  No.  12 June 15 - 28,  2006


Developer Seeks CB7 Stamp of Approval on Armory Project


Builder Peter Fine unveiled his colorful and detailed Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment proposal at Community Board 7 two weeks ago, hoping to bypass a laborious city process for choosing a developer.

The city plans to issue a request for proposals (RFP) in August that would essentially open the door to any interested firm to present their vision for the mammoth landmark.

Fine, who is close to the Bronx Democratic organization, said it was in the community’s interest to act quickly and decisively in support of his proposal.

“The way I’d like you to think about it is as community empowerment,” Fine said to members of the Board’s Land Use Committee. “We’ve responded to what we’ve heard.”

Indeed, Fine, whose Atlantic Development Group has joined forces with the Richman Group, appears to have incorporated many of the items on the wish lists of local stakeholders.

The plan includes 2,000 public school seats, 1,000 parking spots, a movie theater multiplex, large and small retail stores (such as the home improvement giant Lowes and the department store Kohl’s), a National Guard recruiting station, and community space for youth and seniors. The YMCA is interested in opening a branch at the Armory and Fine would like to identify a bookstore chain as well.

“It’s a wonderful proposal,” said Community Board 7 District Manager Rita Kessler. “It recognized the wish list of the Community Board and all the other groups.”

Key to Fine’s pitch, Kessler said, is his plan to relocate the National Guard units currently occupying the annex building behind the facility.

Atlantic Development is in contract to purchase a four-acre plot of land in a southeast Bronx industrial district at Zerega and Hermany avenues and has drafted plans for a new National Guard facility there. A letter from military officials attached to Fine’s proposal said the site “is suitable for a National Guard facility.”

During the committee meeting, Fine said some of those interested in leasing space at the Armory might not stick around through the entire RFP process, during which other developers would have a chance to submit competing proposals. The city says the process could take anywhere from three months to a year.

“God willing, we can hold on to the YMCA,” Fine said, adding that AMC, a national movie theater chain that is interested in the Armory, might bolt as well.

After his presentation, Fine asked the board to come up with a resolution saying that “you support our proposal.”

Following Fine’s presentation, Community Board 7 chair Greg Faulkner questioned the need to act with such urgency.

“Shouldn’t we wait to see what the RFP looks like?” Faulkner asked.

“If it’s an RFP, it becomes the administration’s project,” Fine responded. “I think what we’re trying to do is something that’s the community’s project. A one-and-a-half- year solicitation won’t bring in anything else [that we’re not already offering].

“[If you avoid the RFP] then it becomes your project and not the bureaucracy’s project.”

A spokesperson for the Economic Development Corporation, the city agency overseeing the project, said the city was still on track to issue an RFP in August.

“Our intention is to go ahead with the RFP process,” said an EDC spokesperson who then asked for the name of the developer making the push.

The city has also formed a task force, comprised of local elected officials and community representatives, to help shape the RFP.

However enamored they were of his attractive proposal, community leaders appeared leery of throwing their weight behind Fine.

Officials at the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, who led a community planning process over the last few years that resulted in designs that are very similar to Fine’s, like what they see. But they believe that going through with the RFP will be healthy.

Faulkner said he wants to hold off on endorsing the project until he’s convinced that an early endorsement wouldn’t create any legal problems in the future.

“If it could expedite the process and if I could be convinced that we could avoid legal issues, I would say fine,” he said, adding that the community needs to act with caution because of the size and importance of the project. “I want to make sure it’s done the right way.”

Still, Faulkner believes that if Fine’s group sticks around through the RFP and continues to keep its offer on the table — with the proposed design as well as the plan to relocate the National Guard — then the Atlantic Group will “become the overwhelming favorite.”

Kessler, who said Fine does a good job of completing building projects throughout the Bronx and the rest of the city, also said that it’s too soon to back his proposal.

Jordan Moss contributed to this story.

Ed. Note:  There will be more discussion about the project on Tuesday, June 20, at Community Board 7's final public meeting before the summer break.

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