May 13, 2013
The story of the “long vacant” Kingsbridge Armory stretches back into the early years of the Norwood News. We began publishing in 1988. The military left the main building in 1993. We’ve been writing about its emptiness and the efforts to fill that emptiness ever since.
There’s a reason for that. The Armory is not only a huge, beautiful, iconic building, its fate holds all the promise of a revolution for the downtrodden area around it. That area includes lovely homes, nice buildings and hardworking people. But it’s also home to prostitution, drug dealing, slumlords and gun violence.
Simply put, it’s needed a shot in the arm(ory) since well before the Armory stopped being a place where bullets were stored.
Over the years, we’ve chronicled all the failed attempts and pipe dreams (including Councilman Oliver Koppell’s outlandish notion back in the day that the Armory should house a bunch of silly ice skating rinks), always with an eye on how any given project would benefit the community.
Now, with the Armory on its way toward becoming the world’s largest ice sports complex — Koppell, you were so ahead of your time! — which is coming complete with the city’s strongest community benefits agreement, it’s time to celebrate.
This isn’t to say that there won’t be hiccups and battles over the next five years as this thing gets built, but from what we can tell at this point, the Kingsbridge National Ice Center is poised to become a success and a catalyst for community development in the northwest Bronx.
Yes, there will be jobs — 800-plus during construction and some 260 “living wage” jobs when it’s completed (although, five years from now, we may have to re-think what that means).
But what we’re most excited about is the free after-school program for area youth.
The after-school program fills a huge need in an area inundated by youth who attend the public schools on the Education Mile, which stretches from West 195th Street to Mosholu Parkway.
These kids need something to do to stay out of trouble, to get exercise, to build their confidence, and to work with adult mentors, who will include hockey legend Mark Messier and superstar figure skater Sarah Hughes.
The ice center developers say they will steal the playbook for the program from a successful model in Philadelphia, which gets nothing but rave reviews. We believe that with Messier, Hughes and the Wall Street connections of the developers, they will be able to fund the program for as long as the Armory is home to the planet’s destination ice sports complex.
How cool is that? Cool as ice.