PUBLISHED BY MOSHOLU PRESERVATION CORPORATION

Vol. 20,  No. 5 March 8 - 21, 2007



     
 

Impasse Continues Over Armory 'Gag Order'

By ALEX KRATZ

City and local Bronx officials continue to butt heads over a controversial confidentiality agreement that is threatening to delay, or even derail, the long-anticipated redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory.

The Armory Task Force, an advisory group created by the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and made up of local elected officials and community leaders, was supposed to review and discuss the three Armory redevelopment proposals at a Bronx meeting on March 1.

But it quickly became apparent that most task force members and all of the elected officials would not sign a pre-requisite confidentiality agreement as it was written and that no one at the meeting would be looking at the Armory proposals.

While Council Member Oliver Koppell left the meeting to attend to other matters (one of his representatives stayed), the rest of the task force – including Assemblyman Jose Rivera and representatives from other local officials (each elected official has appointed a community member) – stayed to discuss a confidentiality compromise. According to Gregory Faulkner, a task force member who is chair of Community Board 7, the discussion lasted an hour and a half and ended with EDC officials saying they would rework the agreement and send it out to task members to sign within the next few days.

As reported in the last issue of the Norwood News, in the days leading up to the meeting, task force members Koppell, Congressman Josť Serrano and others said they would not sign the confidentiality agreement, saying it infringed on their ability to relay valuable information to their constituents.

In response to mounting opposition to the agreement, EDC officials changed the language in hopes of placating skeptical task force members.

The new agreement proposed by the EDC, however, remains a strict document that prevents officials or their representatives from talking to the public, press or anyone outside of the EDC or task force, until either the contract is finalized or the land review process is completed, whichever happens first. While this isn’t the indefinite period designated in the first draft, it could still mean possibly two years of official silence about anything related to the selection process.

Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter, a Fordham Hill resident who represents Serrano on the task force, said the agreement amounts to a gag order. But Pilgrim-Hunter added that the task force is still very much committed to being involved in the selection process and wanted to work out a compromise with the EDC.

The EDC claims the confidentiality agreement is necessary to maintain the competitiveness of the review and procurement process, but Koppell and others aren’t convinced.

“This should be an open process,” Koppell said a couple of weeks ago about his refusal to sign the agreement.

After the meeting, the EDC agreed to rework the language of the agreement, but insisted that something must be in place to protect the integrity of the process.

“We are working closely with the task force members and are confident that we will reach an agreement regarding confidentiality,” said EDC spokesperson Janel Patterson in an email.

Patterson said a new meeting date would be scheduled soon, but did not give any specifics.

Ultimately, City Hall will make the final call on which developer is chosen, but the EDC has allowed the task force to participate in an advisory role since the agency began drafting a Request for Proposals (RFP) last July, giving the local community an unprecedented voice in a massive city project.

Editor’s note: This article has been corrected from an earlier version that appeared on this Web site and in the print edition. The original version mistakenly said that the entire task force walked out of the meeting when an agreement couldn’t be reached. It also mistakenly stated that Pilgrim-Hunter is a representative of Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion on the task force when, in fact, she represents Congressman Jose Serrano. The Norwood News regrets the errors.

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