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Community Group Wants a Say in Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment

By Patrick Wall | September 12, 2012 4:30pm

KINGSBRIDGE HEIGHTS — While two would-be redevelopers of the Kingsbridge Armory duke it out, a local group long dedicated to the building’s renewal wants to make sure the community isn’t forgotten.

The developers proposing a nine-rink ice sports center for the armory on Monday touted a study they commissioned, which predicts $88 million in annual economic activity for the city if the project is selected.

On Tuesday, the developer behind a shopping and entertainment plan for the site announced new members of a “hip hop federation” whose idea for a hip-hop museum is part of the proposal.

And on Wednesday, members of the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance, the community coalition, are expected to gather outside the armory to remind developers of their demands for the site.

“We want a developer who comes into our neighborhood and actually enlists the expertise of people who live in the community,” said Alice McIntosh, a leader of KARA, a coalition of labor, religious and community groups, which played a role in the defeat of an earlier plan to redevelop the site.

Chief among their demands is for the developer to sign an enforceable agreement that it honor any promises it makes to the community.

That way, “when all the trucks and the fancy developers leave, we have something in writing that says they’re going to hold up their end of the bargain,” McIntosh said.

In 2009, when the developer Related proposed building a city-subsidized mall in the armory, KARA insisted it require all tenants to pay their employees at least $10 an hour with benefits — a so-called living wage. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., labor leaders and other elected officials backed the wage demand and, when Related refused, the City Council voted down the project.

Since then, the Council passed a bill requiring developers who receive significant city subsidies to pay a living wage.

Although the developers of this year's two new proposals both said they would not ask for public subsidies, KARA would still like them to require living wages, McIntosh said.

The developer behind the ice facility, called the Kingsbridge National Ice Center, promised that all the 170 full-time jobs at the center would pay a living wage.

Youngwoo & Associates, the developer behind the mixed-use complex, called Mercado Mirabo, promised at least 170 living-wage jobs at the site, though they will not set wage requirements for all of their tenants.

Diaz announced his support of the ice center plan last month, citing the living-wage promise as one reason.

Diaz also raised concerns that the merchants in Mercado Mirabo’s “creative market” would compete with local businesses.

But KARA would consider such competition healthy, as long as the new merchants are not big-box stores, McIntosh said.

“The borough president is one person,” she added. “He is not the voice of the community.”

As for the proposals themselves, McIntosh questioned whether Bronxites are really “ice people” who will use the rinks. But she also said that when many residents hear “market,” they think “flea.”

Both developers said they have met multiple times with community members, including KARA.

A representative of Youngwoo said they are open to the idea of a formal document outlining certain benefits for the community. A spokesman for the ice center development team did not immediately respond for comment about the possibility of such an agreement.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation has said it will choose a redevelopment plan for the armory by the end of the year. Then the project will go through the city’s lengthy land-use review process, known as ULURP.

McIntosh said that if community members are not consulted before a proposal is selected, they will be sure to share their opinion during the approval process.

“We will be at every step of that ULURP process saying, 'no,'” she said.