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Diaz and Others Throw Weight Behind Armory Ice Center Plan (Cabrera Still Undecided)

Diaz and Others Throw Weight Behind Armory Ice Center Plan (Cabrera Still Undecided)

Norwood News 8/28/2012

By Alex Kratz

Last Thursday, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and a handful of local officials came out in strong support of a proposal to turn the Kingsbridge Armory into a world-class ice sports center. The video above shows snippets from the new conference, which also featured the project’s two most prominent supporters — former NY Rangers star Mark Messier and gold medal winning figure skater Sarah Hughes. Lehman College President Ricardo Fernandez also attended to show his support.

Diaz said the group assembled — including State Senator Gustavo Rivera (who can see the Armory from his apartment, he likes to say), Councilman Oliver Koppell (who reminded everyone it was his dream to have ice sports at the Armory 15 years ago), Assemblyman Nelson Castro (who thanked Diaz for inviting him) — was speaking as a unified voice to the mayor’s office and the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which will decide on a developer for the Armory sometime in September.

Notably not present, however, was Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera, whose district includes the Armory. Although Cabrera wasn’t available to attend the press conference due to conflicting meeting with the police commissioner, his chief of staff, Greg Faulkner, said Cabrera has not taken a public position on which developer he prefers. A few months ago, Cabrera was said to be down on the ice center plan because it didn’t offer enough community benefits. But Faulkner said the first-term councilman truly has not decided on which project would benefit the community more.

The other group in the running is Young Woo & Associates, which wants to turn the Armory into a creative market for local artisans and entrepreneurs. The project would also include a recreational facilities, some mid-sized retail, a gym and a movie theater. According to the Daily News, Young Woo responded, saying it was “very surprised and obviously disappointed” by the borough president’s endorsement and defended their plan, called Mercado Mirabo, as the option that would “offer the most significant benefits to the surrounding community and all the residents of The Bronx.” (Young Woo announced today that the Hip Hop Museum will be part of the overall development plan for Mercado Mirabo.)

During the press conference, Diaz was asked why he supported the ice project over the Young Woo market project. He said he liked the other project, but liked the ice project better. He said the ice project would pumped more money into the local economy and wouldn’t compete with the area’s small businesses.

Asked by BronxTalk host Gary Axelbank if Bronxites (not known for their affinity toward hockey or figure skating) would actually use the ice rinks, Diaz said: “There’s an old adage, Gary. If you build it, they will come.”

More on this in next week’s Norwood News, but this should get the conversation going.