Vol. 20,  No. 9 May 3 - 16, 2007


Armory ‘Gag Order’ Dropped
Task Force to Review Proposals May 10


After two months of negotiations with a Bronx advisory group, city officials withdrew a controversial confidentiality agreement that would have prevented group members, including prominent elected officials, from speaking publicly about the Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment proposals.

The advisory group — the Kingsbridge Armory Task Force — which is comprised of local elected officials and community leaders, is now set to review the proposals on May 10, but it’s unclear how much detail they’ll get to see.

Initially, the task force was supposed to sit down and review the three proposals for the long-vacant Armory with the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) on March 1.

But elected officials, including Congressman Josť Serrano and Council Member Oliver Koppell, balked at signing a prerequisite confidentiality agreement before the meeting, saying it was too broad and infringed on their ability to relay information to their constituents. Officials referred to the agreement as a gag order.

Instead of reviewing the proposals, the task force and EDC spent the March 1 meeting discussing the parameters of a viable confidentiality agreement.

Both sides appeared willing to compromise. The EDC remained adamant that some type of confidentiality agreement needed to be in place to ensure the integrity of the selection process. The task force wasn’t against an agreement as long as it was more specific and limited in scope.

In the following weeks, the EDC sent a couple of agreement re-drafts to task force members. Counter-proposals, including at least one from Koppell’s office, were then sent back to the EDC. Then, talks between the parties stopped and the EDC simply dropped the confidentiality agreement requirement last week.

Now, the task force is scheduled to meet with the EDC on May 10 to review the three Armory proposals (from Related Companies, Atlantic Development Group and Rosenshein Associates), but it’s unclear exactly what parts of the proposals will be available and what will be excluded.

EDC spokesman Andrew Brent said the task force will still be able to see project details that will allow a thorough understanding of each proposal, but Koppell and others on the task force don’t seem to know precisely what that means they will be looking at on May 10.

“We’ve sought to preserve two things in this process: legitimate collaboration with local stakeholders that allows them an opportunity to give substantive feedback on the proposals and a course of action that maintains the highest levels of integrity and competitiveness to ensure we get the best result for the community and the city,” said Brent, in an e-mail to the Norwood News.

Since the Armory Task Force was created last summer, the EDC has hyped the group as an unprecedented community voice in a major city project. Brent said the task force’s input remains “vital.”

And though it remains unclear how the lack of a confidentiality agreement will affect the selection process, the May 10 meeting is “a step in the right direction,” said task force member Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter, who represents Serrano and works with the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition.

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