In opposing the development, the advocates took the position that the development would create huge traffic problems harmful to the local area. Their points included the following: Tens of thousands of auto trips daily through the community streets would increase congestion levels significantly; projected truck trips were grossly underestimated; off-street parking would accommodate only a fraction of the demand; Kingsbridge Armory traffic would result in increased traffic accidents; total vehicle delays would increase by 143 percent; fuel consumption would increase by 92 percent; and all of the traffic would cause additional environmental and health hazards to an area already suffering from high asthma rates.
These were among the arguments used to oppose the project. Are we to assume that these deleterious conditions would magically disappear if tenants were to pay higher wages to their employees? These advocates seem to think so.
The result today is that the armory continues to sit vacant, with no jobs created, no tax revenue generated and no benefits provided to the community. The borough president’s response has been to form yet another task force to look into the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory. This will be the third task force assembled to seek solutions for this wasting asset. Not only has it been an eyesore for the neighborhood, the city had to invest $25 million into this property to address its dilapidated and dangerous condition several years ago. The new task force, very noticeably, does not include Seth Pinsky from the Economic Development Corporation, who tellingly declined to accept the position on the task force.
Today, stakeholders indicated a willingness to explore all potential uses for the property, including “expansion of the film industry, arts and recreation space, green manufacturing or a combination of these and many other uses.” Does anyone who is consulting on this project understand the amount of rent that filmmakers, artists and manufacturers can afford to pay? Although well intended, these ideas are ridiculous when it comes to the feasibility of commercial real estate development. If these uses are something the city truly wants, then the city should invest the $310 million and “give the space away” for uses that they seek. The city would be required to continue to subsidize the operation of the building, as the rents considered affordable by tenants for these potential uses would not even cover operating expenses.
The private sector has proposed three viable plans for the armory from three well-established, credible and community-minded developers. It is clear that the advocates are seeking living wages and union protections for the construction jobs and for the permanent jobs associated with this project. Moreover, it appears they would prefer a much grander plan: a living-wage law passed citywide on any projects receiving taxpayer subsidies.
For now, the advocates claim “victory” while the future of the Kingsbridge Armory remains uncertain. There are, however, a few things that are very clear and far from uncertain: $310 million will not be invested in the armory anytime soon; 2,200 jobs have not been created; and the city will not collect a nickel of real estate taxes on this property for the foreseeable future.
Congratulations to the project’s opponents on this stunning victory for New York City.
Robert Knakal is the chairman and founding partner of Massey Knakal Realty Services and has brokered the sale of more than 1,050 properties in his career.