Icing on the Armory Cake?

According to the NY Times, Bronx BP Ruben Diaz has come out in support of turning the Kingsbridge Armory into an ice skating palace:

“The long-empty Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx would be converted into a national ice center with nine ice rinks and extensive youth hockey and skating programs under a proposal that a group of Bronx elected officials and labor leaders endorsed on Thursday. Led by the borough president, Ruben Diaz Jr., the group rallied behind the ice center, which they estimated would cost $275 million. They called it the best of six proposals that had been submitted to the city for the redevelopment of the armory, a cavernous fortress that looms over a borough troubled by poverty and unemployment.”

New York Times

Could the BP’s support be the kiss of death for this incongruous proposal? After all, wasn’t it Diaz who locked horns with the mayor when the original shopping center was defeated back in 2009? As the Times points out:

“In 2009, Mr. Diaz and other Bronx officials blocked a proposal to build a shopping mall at the armory, in part because the developer, the Related Companies, balked at their demands that mall workers be paid a living wage, and in part over concerns that it would compete with local stores.

The collapse of that proposal soured Mr. Diaz’s relationship with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and helped set off a citywide campaign for living-wage legislation that was adopted by the City Council this spring over the mayor’s veto.”

It appears that the selling point for this concept is the living wage pledge Diaz received from the developers: “Mr. Diaz said a crucial reason for his support for the ice center was that the developer had voluntarily pledged that every job created by the project would pay at least $10 an hour with benefits, or $11.50 an hour without benefits, in line with wage standards set by the city’s recently passed “living wage“ legislation. The development group estimated the center would create about 200 permanent and 1,800 temporary construction positions.”

But the big question that remains is whether this concept is the highest and best economic use for the venue-and we can see how the mayor might find another concept more palatable: “A competing proposal that has received local support calls for creating a $100-million development styled like the Chelsea Market, with weekend stalls for artists and entrepreneurs to sell goods, as well as a six-screen theater and a rock-climbing wall.”

We are also a bit perplexed as to how skating on this large a scale fits with Bronx demographics and interests-something that others have begun to point out:

“The ice center proposal comes as the Bronx’s first public skating rink will open this fall in Van Cortlandt Park. Several Bronx residents walking by the armory on Thursday said that they did not see a need for more ice rinks.

Rafael Rodriguez, 18, said that while he enjoyed ice skating, the community would benefit more from having a mixed-use sports complex that also included basketball courts and tennis courts. “It’s too limited,” he said. “You really don’t need that many ice rinks.”

The Times doesn’t mention what the other four proposals might be-or if favored son Related was in this for another bite at the poisoned apple. The wise move here for food retailers is to monitor this process carefully. We have seen how the city’s bait and switch tactics led to the downfall of the first Armory project-and how EDC has done the same over at Willets Point.

What the food industry needs here is extreme vigilance so no food box stores sneak in while everyone’s falling for the city’s misdirection. Forewarned is forearmed.

 

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