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Kingsbridge Armory Ice Rink Developer Touts Local Benefits Ahead of Hearing

By Patrick Wall | September 17, 2013 11:24am
 The developer talked up a package of local perks before a community board votes on the project Tuesday.
Kingsbridge Armory Hearing
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KINGSBRIDGE HEIGHTS — The developer who hopes to turn the Kingsbridge Armory into the world’s largest indoor ice center is pitching the project as a boon to locals ahead of a community board vote on the project Tuesday evening.

The city selected the Kingsbridge National Ice Center Partners’ Armory redevelopment proposal in April, but now the plan must pass through the formal land-use approval process, which includes an advisory vote by Community Board 7.

The 750,000-square-foot ice center, which is expected to begin construction in 2014 and open in 2017, will feature nine year-round rinks — including one with 5,000 spectator seats — intended for hockey and curling as well as figure, speed, synchronized and recreational skating.

But it is a package of perks for the local community that the developer is talking up ahead of Tuesday’s vote, which will include a motion passed by a board committee that has previously been critical of the project.

The ice center “will transform The Bronx into the epicenter of ice sports in the United States, while generating tremendous economic and educational benefits for the community,” said Hockey Hall of Famer and former Rangers star Mark Messier, who was named as the future center’s CEO last week.

Earlier this year, KNIC Partners entered into an extensive community-benefits agreement with a coalition of 27 local groups.

In it, the developer agreed to hire Bronx workers for 51 percent of Armory jobs, to pay every worker a so-called living wage, to use green-building practices and to fund an after-school tutoring and an ice-sports program for local youth.

The developer will also donate a 52,000-square-foot space in the facility and $8 million to convert it into a community center, with facilities that could include a gym, art gallery, dance studio or small-business incubator.

And, in an arrangement that both the developer and the community coalition described as rare, KNIC Partners will share 1 percent of the annual ice-rental revenues with the community, which they estimate will amount to about $300,000 per year.

An 11-member local advisory board — with one developer representative — will vote on how to use those funds.

KNIC Partners estimates that the wages, free space, ice time, revenue sharing and other benefits for locals will add up to about $1.7 billion during the center’s 99-year lease.

“Everything here has been designed to keep money in the community,” said Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter, a member of the community coalition who participated in the local benefits negotiations.

The developers have said they eventually want to found a sports-themed school adjacent to the Armory to relieve local school overcrowding, but because the National Guard occupies that site, there are no immediate plans to build the school.

As part of the land-use review process, Community Board 7 will vote on the project, then the Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. will make a recommendation, followed by a City Council vote.

Three of the board’s four land-use committee members recently passed a motion against the project, which the full board will consider Tuesday.

Pilgrim-Hunter, who was present for the committee vote, said the members had some concerns about traffic, but she also said they had misunderstood the benefits agreement.

The developer and the community coalition have both since spoken with those members to address their concerns, Pilgrim-Hunter added.

“I’m very optimistic that the full board will support the project,” she said, “because that’s what the community wants.”

The CB7 Armory hearing begins 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17 at Lehman College's Lovinger Theatre at 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West.