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BP Diaz behind living wage armory ice rink

Bronx Times

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz will join New York Rangers legend Mark Messier and Olympic Gold Medalist Sarah Hughes on Thursday to throw his support behind a major ice rink complex at the long dormant Kingsbridge Armory - with developers promising that every job will carry a living wage.

The announcement comes as the city’s Economic Development Corp. is now also weighing a proposal by developer Young Woo to turn the armory into a mixed-used space that would include a retail marketplace, a recreation facility with indoor soccer and a cineplex featuring 4D movies.

Diaz, who’s opposition to a lack of living wages killed a retail development proposal there the last time, still faces opposition from the local community board, which fears the ice hockey center would create major traffic congestion.

Diaz has said he wants any company seeking more than $1 million in tax exemptions or other forms of public assistance for a development project to agree to pay workers at least $10 an hour - $2.75 more than the state’s $7.25 minium wage.

Diaz’ late support for what would be called the Kingsbridge National Ice Center is a fairly unusual step, given that the Request for Proposals have already been closed and are now being weighed internally by the EDC, with a final decision expected shortly.

Any proposal chosen by the EDC would be subject to the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), with local Community Board 7 issuing an advisory vote on it. The board has already indicated it would reject the rink proposal because of the flood of vehicular traffic it would bring to the neighborhood.

The rink developer has boasted it would draw at least three million visitors annually, but opponents argue it would be mostly by car to the already traffic choked neighborhood.

The next ULURP level would be the borough president, then the city planning commission and ultimately the Council.

The issue could have citywide political implications for the young borough president, who recently announced he is weighing a citywide run for Public Advocate.

Diaz has been working behind the scenes to line up political support for the rink proposal, with Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson also reported working behind the scenes, according to a number of sources.

If it were to hit a similar political pothole - either rejected (unlikely with City Hall pressure) or voted down by the City Council, it would a political embarassment for both Diaz and Mayor Bloomberg, who also pushed the Related project at the armory.

The ultimate key player could be local City Councilman Fernando Cabrera, who is reported wavering between the two projects, while Councilman Oliver Koppell, whose district “touches’ the armory area, supports the rink.

But since the armory sits squarely in Caberera’s district, the council would generally go along with his wishes on whatever final development proposal makes its way to the council.

The ice rink facility would include nine rinks, a seasonal outdoor rink, a 4,000 to 5,000 seat arena, more than 50,000 square feet in community space, and an after school Educational Sports Foundation.

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