Kingsbridge Armory on Jerome Avenue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Bronx is about to get another chance to lift the curse of the Kingsbridge Armory, with two new proposals to develop the site. But it will have to overcome stiff opposition by the local soviets that have thwarted commercial enterprise at the “people’s armory” for years.
Only two years ago, recall, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz’s insistence on a special minimum wage scuttled a plan for the armory by the Related Company that promised 2,200 jobs.
But The Bronx never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
Some just resist change. Others — like the local activists who’ve been trained in the spirit of leftist organizer Saul Alinsky — don’t even need an excuse.
Then there are shakedown artists, who’ll demand the usual bribe: the “community benefits agreement,” in the form, perhaps, of another blanket “living wage” minimum or funding for a school or preferences for locals. They’ll cite bogus “concerns” until the developer caves — and then brag of their big victory.
Unless, of course, the developers walk, as Related did — and The Bronx loses out yet again.
Bronx residents can’t afford to let that happen this time. Fortunately, both Mayor Bloomberg and Diaz now appear determined to check off the armory as done on their “to-do” lists. And two promising proposals have emerged.
The first is the Kingsbridge National Ice Center — a plan for a world-class ice-hockey and skating-sports facility featuring nine rinks and an ice-sports-themed middle school. The second is an indoor Times Square-style commercial venture anchored by small retailers, a cineplex and a Crunch Gym. Either would mark a huge step forward for the borough.
Yet, predictably , the Luddites are already vowing to fight any possible good news.
Insiders, for instance, think the ice center will get the nod. If so, critics will charge that Bloomberg and Diaz greased the skids in favor of NHL legend Mark Messier and Olympic champion Sarah Hughes, who are behind the project.
They’ll revive the ESPN E60 report on the dangers of “carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide or ultrafine particles” from poorly maintained Zambonis.
They’ll scaremonger over the idea of nine ice rinks using ammonia-based refrigeration systems. The’ll raise faux safety concerns by citing an ice-house in Florida that exploded when ammonia gas leaked.
Such warnings may sound laughable in a borough that already suffers the highest childhood-asthma and COPD rates in the city. But lamer notions have killed even more exciting plans in New York.
Yet the National Ice Center may represent just the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that will bring the borough positive attention, not to mention 3 million visitors annually.
The second bid, for the commercial center, comes from immigrant real-estate entrepreneur Young Woo — who certainly has the imagination and financial chops to make it a success. Like his planned Pier 57 redo, Young Woo’s Armory concept is an artsy open-air market with rental space for artists and small businesses. The plan revolves around a “zocalo,” or town square — a dynamic reflection of its host community.
Two years ago, Forbes magazine described Young Woo as having a feel for the pulse of New York. The same can be said of his armory plan, which intends to capture the frenetic energy of The Bronx and relocate it indoors.
Alas, that positive, caged excitement is exactly what some Bronx leaders don’t want. Like survivors of some terrible violence, some of the old-timers wrongly believe that embracing something new means betraying those who didn’t survive the trauma of arson, drugs and economic dislocation that long wracked Bronx neighborhoods.
The fact is, The Bronx will never turn the economic corner until more of its people let go of the familiar and embrace a bold future.
The hope is that the shakedown attempts, the scare tactics and the fears of change won’t be enough to “ice” either plan.
Bronxites must stand up to the activists and extortionists. We must cease picking at old psychic wounds and embrace an unfamiliar, but hopeful, future.
Too much is riding on redeveloping the Kingsbridge Armory, changing The Bronx’s trajectory and making it a destination point for the greater community. Bloomberg and Diaz must be allowed to build something — finally — to attract new life and offer hope to those who live here.
Readers might find interesting these comments posted at NYPost.com:
Great article, Mr. Benjamin’s analysis is “dead on”. We do need change in the Bronx, I personally love Mr. Woo’s idea, we do need a retail space for local artisans and crafters, however which ever proposal is accepted I also hope that Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Diaz will be able to finally realize the dreams of so many Bronxites and develop the armory and in so doing create the much needed jobs here in the Bronx.
· 9 hours ago
the premise of this article is despciable. the people of the bronx don’t ‘naysay’ for the sake of naysying. they do it because historically their representatives and developers don’t have their community’s best interests in mind when they cut deals. unfortunately, in many cases their concerns have been proven to be justified… and so to wipe away issues they might raise in the future with a sterotypical assumption is a dangeruos notion. so, yes, we need the right development in the kingsbrdige armory… and all over the bronx. but if there’s something wrong with a proposal then i urge ALL bronxites to stand up and be counted andn make sure things are done right before they accept anything less. i assure you, #1, i will be standing right with them and #2, i will provide a responsible public forum to shed light on their contentions.
· 7 hours ago
· 9 hours ago
· Bronx, New York
The key point here is that the National Ice Center will attract 3 Million visitors annually. The neighborhood is already over saturated with retail. The Market Mercado will only hurt the Fordham Road Business District.
· 8 hours ago
competition in retail has proven to be successful in many cases it provides options for a consumer and allows for there to be a variation if you will in quality – and the right for a consumer or customer to have an option if they want a hostos cup cake from a super market or a portion controlled miniature dessert made by my company from fresh local ingredients – Competition is wonderful and allows us to choose what we want and not have to buy whats readily available- Im sure you are an avid hockey fan so i wont knock that your probably one of few who would like to see a rink open their but its just not as profitable for any one let alone the city- hmm
· 6 hours ago
· Bronx, New York
One can travel to any small town or city in America and see a new shopping center going up and an old one shutting its’ doors. That process does not improve a community. If anything, it generates blight. Stores on Fordham Road or Kingsbridge Road will start closing due to competition from Market Mercado. The fact is that there are X consumers in any given market area and you only need a finite amount of retail to service them. Those consumers have a certain amount of purchasing power and the types of stores within the community reflect that. Currently, I reside in the South Bronx now and I doubt I’d make any special trips up to Market Mercado because Manhattan is just as close. On the other hand I would take my family and friends up to the ice center. I am not an avid ice sports fan however I used to live a 2-minute wal
k from the Kingsbridge Armory. So I would say that I have some insight into the needs of the community. The National Ice Center would bring people throughout the region into the neighborhood and bolster the local economy. NYC has 8.5 million residents and how many year-round venues to go ice skating??? As someone affiliated with Columbia University you might be interested to know that the girls figure skating team practices in Hackensack, NJ. Perhaps, that would change if the ice center opened. You could open up a designer cupcake store nearby to sell to them and the other 3M+ visitors. Otherwise, you might want to consider locating down by Yankee Stadium because somehow I don’t think designer cupcakes are going to be flying off the shelves in Kingsbridge otherwise.
· · 6 hours ago
hey rich I too am from the same are of the bronx and indeed I know the area well- I would be happy to see any plans that would be beneficial to improving the area – my company produces much more than just cupcakes and have been a part of many events in that area from fordhams grand concourse on down – there is alot of building of the community going on and im pleased to say i myself and my company have been plenty happy to serve each and every individual in that neighborhood- not only did I attend school in this area but i live just a few minutes away we are also busy educating children about food- food science and nutrition – so if you would like to stop in for a session to see what we really do ill drop you an invite – as far as columbia u they can go skate in rockerfella plaza or central park or the seaport should i continue to name a few others – due some research – they have enough money to build there own ring gimme a brake- no offense i respect all peoples opinions and all members of the community have the right to suggest what they would like to do to help build up where they live more people like us should be involved with what is going on around us–GOOD DAY:)