Will the Kingsbridge Armory Finally be Refurbished?

By Elizabeth Perry

The Kingsbridge Armory

After years of failed renovation plans, the Kingsbridge Armory may soon be transformed. The city is asking residents to participate in its re-envisioning.

The Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC) hosted a meeting in April to solicit the public’s input. The discussion focused on gaining feedback on the “guiding values and principles that should direct the armory’s campaign,” said host, Sandra Lobo. Some of the concerned citizens who attended the meeting suggested that the armory be turned into a health and wellness center, a recreational center, or even a school.

Andrew Lalosa, a nearby resident, argued that in order to successfully improve the neighborhood the plans need to preserve and protect the culture of the Bronx. “The energy and creativity, hip-hop, break dancing, and graffiti art bring,” said Andrew. “I’d love to see some sort of development at the Kingsbridge Armory that gathers that talent.”

The conversation included local politicians Gustavo Rivera (New York State senator of the 33rd Senate District), Vanessa Gibson (Bronx Borough president), Pierina Sanchez (New York City councilmember), and Jose Rivera (member of New York State Assembly) who came to listen and take notes on the community’s feedback. Next, politicians will work with contractors and economic development to construct a thorough proposal for the armory.

Previous efforts to renovate the armory have failed. In 2013, a new proposal aimed to transform the Kingsbridge Armory into the world’s largest indoor ice center, called the Kingsbridge National Ice Center (KNIC). That plan fell through at the end of 2021 when New York City terminated its contract with the armory because of funding issues.

Recently, however, a New York Supreme Court ruling gave the city’s Economic Develop Corp. full ownership of the armory after eight years of the KNIC failing to secure the proper funding to develop the space. “There’s a sad history in that the connect proposal fell through,” Pierina Sanchez said. “We can really do something major here.”

The Kingsbridge Armory

The Kingsbridge Armory, once known as the Eighth Regiment Armory, stands at Jerome Avenue and West Kingsbridge in the Bronx. Built in 1910, the armory has been used for exhibitions, boxing matches, a film set, and even a place to store munitions.

In 1974, the armory was designated a city landmark. After its brief military use ended in 1996, the armory was turned over to city management and has remained vacant, as proposals to redevelop it have fallen through. One administrated by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg was unsuccessful because it caused disputes over living wage policies.

Gustavo Rivera had been a partner with NWBCCC for 26 years. He said he was able to secure $138 million for New York State to aid in the armory’s development. Borough President Vanessa Gibson,said that opinions and suggestions of Kingsbridge resident had been ignored previously but that things are different now. “You all have our ears,” said Gibson. “This is a new opportunity…you have new leaders that represent you and the Bronx.”

Myrna Calderon, a concerned local said, “We need real spaces for the children. We cannot forget about the children. They should come on top of the conversation.” Robin, another local, said, “There are so many parks around where people exercise and gather. We do need a lot of physical and mental wellness.”

The Kingsbridge Armory

However, there are a few limitations to what can be done with the Kingsbridge Armory. For example, zoning limitations prevent any exterior changes to the infrastructure, because it is a landmark. There are also restrictions in regards to incorporating heavy machinery or hazardous materials into the site.

Many locals suggested the armory be turned into a school. However, the armory lacks sufficient windows and there are many hazardous qualities that can’t be changed to permit the construction of a school.

Andrew Garcia, a NWBCCC employee, explained that what ever becomes of the armory, must help the community financially, not just socially. “The armory must generate revenue,” said Garcia. “It has to pay for massive construction and maintenance costs. It needs to help the community long-term. It needs to be substantial.”

With zoning and revenue expectations, Myrna Calderon suggested that the armory be turned into a children’s museum. “People can spend their dollars in the Bronx, so children don’t have to go to Manhattan or all the way down town,” she said.

Barbara (whose last name was not disclosed), said, “I feel like we need more activities for the teenagers. Not every teen likes to play basketball.” Ileia (another resident whose last name was not disclosed), added, “We need recreation and wellness spaces. I think that includes social services for those who can’t afford it. There’s a big activist history here. The cultures must be invested in and protected.”

If you are interested in learning more about the Kingsbridge Armory and the many efforts being done to reinvent it, please visit https://www.northwestbronx.org/economic-development

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