|Vol. 11, No. 16
||Aug. 27 -
Sept. 9, 1998
Word Begins to Reinvent Landmrk
By JORDAN MOSS
from communities surrounding the Kingsbridge Armory have
begun the slow, hard work of developing a rehabilitation
plan for the decaying landmark.
In two summer sessions, members of the Northwest Bronx
Community and Clergy Coalition and other residents put
forward their hopes and dreams for the vacant facility.
While schools top the list of uses proposed for the
armory by participants, other priorities include: sports
facilities, social service programs like parenting
classes and job training; cultural facilities, and
limited commercial use. In the spirit of a true
brainstorming session, a bookstore and Krispy Kreme
doughnut shop made their way to the newsprint papering
the wall of the St. James Church community room. Even the
tongue-in-cheek suggestion of a 99-cent store was
dutifully transcribed by coalition organizer Clay Smith.
Architect Joan Byron of the Pratt Institute Center for
Community and Environmental Development (PICCED) is
working with the group to develop a re-use proposal and
feasibility study for the armory, which will include a
description of how the armory would be restored and
adapted for new uses, financial analyses that describe
how renovations and long-term operations can be
sustained, strategies for securing the necessary
regulatory approvals and funding commitments, and a
description of how the armory will be owned, governed and
Byron sums up the ambitious task as: "Here's what
the community desires for this building and here's the
proof that it can be done."
For now, the city is in control of the facility and has
let it deteriorate such that the gigantic wood roof over
the drill hall is falling plank by plank onto the
puddle-covered floor. Outside, massive cracks mar its
facade. Inside the head house, the section that faces
Kingsbridge Road, there are many rooms -- some
structurally intact, others badly in need of plastering
-- that resemble classrooms, raising the eyebrows of
parents. But Byron estimated that in total there is only
space for about 300 kids in the 20 or so rooms available.
A better use for that space would somehow be
incorporating it with a new structure in the drill hall
section, she suggested.
Members of the coalition have met with school district
officials to discuss possibilities for including new
schools in the plan. Bruce Irushalmi, the district's
director of special projects, said he supports the
group's goals, but pointed to the current lack of
government interest in rehabilitating the facility.
"In order for it to sustain itself as a landmark,
someone is going to have to make a commitment to
it," Irushalmi said.
While private investors are likely to float their own
plans, Byron says using the armory for commercial
purposes will require the same public subsidies that a
more community-oriented plan would. With a
Pratt/Coalition plan in place as a standard, commercial
interests "would have to prove they're creating as
great a benefit to the community as what we
propose," Byron said.
The biggest obstacles, almost everyone involved agrees,
to implementing a plan for the armory, are money and
The Giuliani administration seems to be playing a shell
game with $30 million previously designated for the
armory, now reportedly in a more general pool of
facilities funds. In June, the borough's City Council
delegation met with the mayor's staff to discuss getting
the funds reassigned to the armory, according to
Councilman Adolfo Carrión. However, those negotiations
appear to be lost amidst the larger, ongoing budget
battle between the mayor and Council. Even if the
councilmembers succeed, though, the money chase will
require much more than securing the $30 million -- a sum
that will do little more than fix the armory's roof.
With a mind towards generating the kind of public support
that will be necessary to elevate the issue to the top of
the political agenda, the coalition is planning a rally
for October 24 at the armory, just prior to the November
elections. For more information about the rally, call the
coalition at 365-4261 or 584-0515.
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