July 13, 2012 at 3:38 PM
By Brandon Alleyne
Editor’s note: Written by a high school student from the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative, this article was published inside the July 12-25 print edition of the Norwood News as part of Bronx Youth Heard, a publication of the initiative. The Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative is a program of the Norwood News and Mosholu Preservation Corporation.
Basketball courts. A shopping center. A gym.
While there have been many proposals over the past 20 years for ways to make use of the vacant Kingsbridge Armory, the one concept that seems to be sticking is also the one that is most foreign to Bronx residents: a hockey rink.
Ex-Ranger Mark Messier and Olympic skater Sarah Hughes are the big names attached to a well-funded effort to open an ice skating and competitive hockey complex in the Bronx, to be called the Kingsbridge National Ice Center. But local teens say it is not a good idea.
“I think the rink idea is dumb,” said Stephanie Melendez, 19, a Washington Heights resident. “The only people who would use it live in Manhattan.”
There is currently no ice rink in the Bronx, though there are plans to open one in Van Cortlandt Park.
The hockey complex has backers in high places and would require minimal public funds – two elements that make it an attractive option for the Economic Development Corporation, the city agency that will make the final decision.
The hockey rink undoubtedly brings something new to the Bronx, but opponents and residents are concerned a rink wouldn’t service the local community.
“They should put something that people from the Bronx would use,” said Luis Carpio, 16, who lives in Riverdale.
The hockey rink proposal serves the community by providing jobs with steady wages, its proponents say. But Bronx teens say they wouldn’t be likely to go there.
“Most people in the Bronx play basketball or baseball, so nobody would use it,” said Jonpaul Ramirez, 16, from the South Bronx.
Fernando Cabrera, the local city councilman who represents the area around the Armory, has also voiced concerns about the ice hockey proposal and says he wants whatever becomes of the Armory to benefit the community.
Recently, officials from the ice center group have stepped up their outreach efforts to Cabrera and Community Board 7, saying they are committed to providing community benefits by building educational programming into their project.
The Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA), a local coalition of community groups, union supporters and clergy, has been advocating for the building to hold something that will benefit Bronx residents. So far, local groups and residents have voiced their concerns for many of the other previous and current proposals, which have included a mall, school, rock-climbing facility and mega-church. Because of fierce opposition from KARA and Bronx political leaders, the City Council killed a proposal to turn the Armory into a mall in 2009.
The EDC is deciding between the ice center proposal and another proposal by Young Woo & Associates, which wants to transform the Armory into a mixed-use “creative” market that would also include a movie theater, event space and recreational programming.
Both groups say they will pay living wage ($10 an hour plus benefits or $11.50 an hour without) to their employees and will not need taxpayer subsidies to fund their projects.
As of publication, the EDC has not yet announced its selected proposal to fill the building.