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Backroom Deals Now Focus in Armory Saga

Bronx Times

Hear that?

That’s the sound of news coming out of the Kingsbridge Armory behind-the-scenes talks between the city, a potential developer and a community group seeking a local benefits agreement.

The 575,000-square-foot castle, vacant for years, is still up for redevelopment, though any semblance of actual movement has been scarce.

But sources tell the Bronx Times the hold up in some backroom dealings involves Kevin Parker, the moneyman behind a proposal to build nine ice skating rinks and a 5,000-seat arena inside the landmark fortress.

Parker, a former Deutsche Bank investor with an interest in eco-friendly projects, is closer to signing a lease agreement with city officials, but with a catch:

He reportedly wants the city to bankroll the costly Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which can run in the millions, according to one source.

Parker’s arm twisting will still involve some quid pro quo, namely signing a roughly $20 million Community Benefits Agreement with community groups plugged into the Armory saga.

The CBA deal, in the middle of stalled negotiations between Parker and some members of the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance, is backed by Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., an early proponent of the ice rink.

Councilman Fernando Cabrera, who represents the Kingsbridge area, has remained neutral so far over his preference for either the rink or a multi-use retail and entertainment complex.

Cabrera, however, will have a strong final say once the final proposal reaches the City Council for a vote.

With nine months left to the end of Mayor Bloomberg’s term, there has been talk of fast tracking the ULURP process solely for Parker.

“There was an interagency meeting from all these heads, all the different agencies affected by ULURP ,” said the source. “They were at a meeting last Monday talking how they can expedite this.”

But by shortcutting the process, invested groups such as Community Board 7, could be given less than the 60-day maximum time they’re allotted to sift through paperwork.

“Why would our community get less than what the law is required?” the source asked.

For Parker, the deal to convert the Armory into the Kingsbridge National Ice Center had been in the works well before competing developer Young Woo & Associates gamechanged negotiations last year, according to several sources.

Parker has had indirect ties to the Bloomberg administration, which honored him with the Mayor Bloomberg Award for outstanding contributions to New York City in 2004, according to his LinkedIn page.

He is president of the board of directors and officers for the New York Police & Fire Widows & Children’s Fund, a nonprofit whose members include Ed Skyler, former Deputy Mayor for Operations for the Bloomberg adminstration.

Parker’s KNIC project is valued at $250 million dollars, leaving many real estate investors labeling the project “a disaster” given the hefty price tag.

The project has committed to providing living wage benefits to all its workers, though groups making up the negotiating committee for the community want more.

None of the parties – including the Mayors Office, the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance, The New York City Economic Development Corporation and KNIC spokesperson – would comment for this story.

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

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