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Kingsbridge Armory ice rink opponents frosty over bid

Bronx Times

A competing development group is calling Borough President Ruben Diaz’s open support for an ice rink at the Kingsbridge Armory premature.

“The public endorsement is early,” said Greg Carney, a partner at Young Woo and Associates, the developer behind Mercado Mirabo - one of two bids to revitalize the long-vacant armory.

“The borough president needs to listen to the community more than anything else,” added Margarette Lee, another partner.

The developers say Mercado Mirabo - an Argentian translation meaning “a market you can see” - will create 1500 Bronx jobs, with 700 construction jobs and 800 permanent positions.

Along with a movie theater, a rock climbing wall, sports arena and now a hip hop museum, Woo has set aside a 45,000-square-foot food court where vendors can set up booths.

Space will also be reserved for weekend vendors to set up kiosks at $60 a day.

The Kingsbridge National Ice Center boasts nine hockey rinks, a 5000-seat arena built for music concerts and other sporting events, and ice-skating programs for kids.

“We don’t think Mercado Mirabo is a bad project,” said Borough President spokesman John DeSio. “We just think the rink is better.”

To help convince Diaz to support the project, KNIC committed to pay workers a “living wage” of $10 an hour, as opposed to the state minumum wage of $7.25.

But Adam Zucker, YWA’s director of business development, balked at requiring vendors to give an hourly wage to its workers. YWA is not required to give a living wage since their project is not seeking any public subsidies.

They also believe their “more fleshed out” concept is in tune to the community’s needs.

“The community doesn’t want ice hockey rinks, let alone nine,” said Zucker.

Zucker said he’s received more community support for the project than against it.

“Every conversation we have concludes with a smile on people’s faces,” said Zucker, adding that local Community Board 7 supports the project.

But the Kingsbridge Road Merchant’s Association, is still on the fence.

KRMA president Nancy Fernandez said that while Woo’s recreation concept is great, she’s concerned over armory vendors taking away business from local stores.

Lehman College, however, has jumped on board the project, committing its small business development center to help start a venture there.

While Councilman Oliver Koppel, whose district takes in some of the neighborhood, supports the ice rink project, local Councilman Fernando Cabrera could have the final say once the project chosen by the City Economic Development Corp. reaches the council for final approval.

The council generally supports the decision of the local councilmember on projects. Cabrera has so far not decided which project he likes, although he has express concerns about the traffic the rink would generate in the already traffic-choked neighborhood.

YWA has also asked Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who supported a failed effort to put a major retail center into the armory, to support its project.

The Economic Development Corporation is expected to make a decision by the end of the year.

“We continue to make progress towards a selection that will achieve the vision for this important site by creating jobs and generating economic investment in the Bronx,” said EDC spokesman Kyle Sklerov.

The winning bid will then go through a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, then to the borough president, and finally to the City Council.

Anyone looking to learn more about Mercado Mirabo’s proposal can go to mercadomirabo.com. Those interested in the ice rink can go to facebook.com/KNICNYC.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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