Ice Center With 9 Rinks Is Proposed for Bronx Armory
The New York Times 8/23/2012
By WINNIE HU
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.
The New York City Economic Development Corporation, which is reviewing the proposals, is expected to select a winner by the end of the year. 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.
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.
“This development will allow our borough to realize the potential of the Kingsbridge Armory and to do so in a way that will offer the people of the Bronx a chance to earn a decent living,” Mr. Diaz said at a news conference in front of the armory, flanked by Mark Messier, the former New York Rangers star, and the Olympic gold-medal figure skater Sarah Hughes, who are members of the development group making the ice center proposal.
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.
Youngwoo & Associates, the developer for the marketplace proposal, released a statement that said it was “very surprised and obviously disappointed” by Mr. Diaz’s endorsement of the ice center. The Youngwoo & Associates proposal, which it estimated would create 800 permanent and 700 construction jobs, called for at least as many jobs paying a living wage as the ice center, the developer said.
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.”