NYC CITY COUNCIL APPROVES KINGSBRIDGE NATIONAL ICE CENTER
The $320 million proposal to convert the long vacant Kingsbridge Armory into the world’s largest indoor ice skating center won City Council approval by a vote of 48 – 1 on December 10, 2013. As illustrated in the cutaway rendering above (courtesy NYC EDC), the Kingsbridge National Ice Center (KNIC) will have nine rinks on two levels with the main central rink having a seating capacity of 5,000. KNIC is scheduled to open in 2017 with Mark Messier as CEO.
Messier, captain of the Stanley Cup winning 1994 NY Rangers, has already played a key role – helping Bronx Borough President Reuben Diaz Jr. and other proponents win the community support that was so vital in moving this project forward. Four years ago, it was community opposition that shelved the ill-conceived proposal to convert the armory into a retail mall. For the KNIC, Messier and his group has worked to resolve traffic, parking, environmental and living wage issues, addressed concerns raised by local business and community leaders, and now forming partnerships with area schools not just for ice time but creating community programs to introduce inner city youth to ice sports. BP Diaz is very enthusiastic – especially about the last item – citing the success of a youth ice hockey program he saw in action in Philadelphia and how it improved the lives of the participants beyond the rink.
If readers of this blog get the impression that this writer is a fan of the project and is rooting for its success, they are correct. The Kingsbridge Armory is such a unique structure that has been vacant far too long. I have admired it since the first time I saw it arriving at the Kingsbridge Station on the IRT Woodlawn train in 1957. (Subway tokens were 15 cents as was a slice of pizza.)
A magnificent structure that had been designated a NYC Landmark in 1957, it was rapidly decaying from disuse and neglect since 1996. I have spent time thinking about ideas for its next life. I spoke at Lehman College when BP Diaz held public hearings on the earlier proposal for a retail mall. I strongly opposed that plan which would merely provide retail space for stores that would compete against established businesses in the immediate area. If the mall was built, it would create a dead zone in the surrounding area. Not the way to revitalize a neighborhood.
I suggested reuse as high tech incubator space in conjunction with one of the area colleges. It was a severely flawed suggestion – economically unviable and certainly not the best reuse of the unique structure. No surprise that no one acted on it.
The proposed ice center will preserve the exterior structure. It will make full use of the interior space. It works with the community. And although I do not ice skate and an ice center is something I never would have thought of, I want it to succeed.
BTW, the one dissenting vote was Brooklyn Councilman Charles Baron who was quoted in Crain’s NY: “No black or Latino skates that much.”
I’m betting he is wrong.
As construction begins, I will monitor its progress and report along the way.
Gee Eng, PE