Three months ago, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. stood outside City Hall with a smile, fresh off a City Council vote that had defeated Related Companies’ plan to redevelop the Bronx’s hulking Kingsbridge Armory as a mall. Mr. Diaz led a charge by elected officials to reject the project unless Related would guarantee that tenants in the mall would all pay a wage of at least $10 an hour, an unprecedented request for a big-box retail hub in the city.
Related refused; the Council voted it down; and the armory stayed vacant.
On Monday, Mr. Diaz announced the creation of a new task force charged with recommending a course of action at the armory, creating a report with suggestions for a request for proposals to develop it.
A statement from Mr. Diaz in his press release:
“A retail mall was not the best use for this space, given the traffic issues and its proximity to the Fordham Road shopping district. My critics have challenged me to come up with something better for the Kingsbridge Armory, and I am prepared to answer that call. There are a number of different options besides retail that could eventually make their home in the armory, be it the expansion of the film industry, arts and recreation space, green manufacturing, or a combination of these and many other uses. This task force will examine those ideas and others, expand on the best of them and develop a report that we will use to help the City craft a new RFP for this iconic structure.”
Whether or not there is indeed a viable alternative other than retail is yet to be seen. The retail deal between the city, which owns the armory, and Related only called for a small purchase price ($5 million), along with $13 million in incentives. Retail tends to be one of the higher-rent industries.
The task force’s membership, per the release:
Majora Carter, environmental consultant; Marlene Cintron, president of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation; Paul Foster, chairman of Bronx Community Board #7; Jack Kittle, political director of District Council 9; Steven McInnis, political director for the New York City District Council of Carpenters; Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter, a board member of the Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition; Ned Regan, former state comptroller; Jack Rosen, Chief Executive of Rosen Partners LLC; Steven M. Safyer, MD, President and CEO of Montefiore Medical Center, and Kathryn Wylde, President & CEO of the Partnership for New York City.