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Monday, May 18, 2009

Kingsbridge Armory Land Review Process Starts Today

The city announced today that the land review process (known in more wonky circles as ULURP) for the Kingsbridge Armory will begin starting now.

I'll try not to get too technical here, but if you want a handy, but still confusing, ULURP chart, click here.

Basically, this means that the Armory's developer, Related Companies, has completed the application for the zoning changes that redeveloping the Armory will entail, including a completed Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). It also means the application has been certified as complete by the City Planning Commission.

Just getting the application approved can take months, even years, but the Related Companies are tight with the city (Related head Steve Ross used to be business partners with former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff), so that may have had something to do with it. Jesse Masyr, Related's lawyer, however, insists they have no control, or sway, over the process. (He also said he'd love for people to believe that they did. You're welcome.)

It also means Community Board 7 now has exactly 60 days, starting today, to review the application and decide whether or not to support the project.

In March, when Community Board 7 Chairman Greg Faulkner submitted a letter of support for Related to receive an estimated $17.8 million in tax breaks for the Armory project, he asked the city not to start the ULURP process until September because the board doesn't meet in July (or August, like most boards), which is exactly when the 60-day review period will end.

When a rep from the mayor's office told Faulkner about the pending approval of the application last week, the Chairman said, if this is the case, he wants to see some kind of a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) and a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) in place before the board votes on it.

The Board and the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA) are both pushing for a binding CBA/PLA that will include living wage jobs, local hiring preferences, more community space for local programming, environmental protection and affordable recreation space (i.e. not a 24-Hour Fitness Club).

KARA and the Board say they still hope to get these benefits in an agreement, but Masyr told them "no" on the living wage job front on April 24. (They're upset with the Norwood News' headline saying "Living Wage Hopes for Armory Dashed" and maintain their hopes are not dashed by a long shot.)

Masyr and Related have not committed to sitting down and negotiating either a CBA or PLA with KARA or the Board.

It will be interesting to see what kind of role new Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. will play in this process. His predecessor, Adolfo Carion, was criticized for falling short and excluding community voices in his efforts to create substantial CBAs for the new Yankee Stadium and the Gateway Center Mall (a Related project). Carrion was also criticized for not reappointing several Community Board 4 members as payback for not supporting the Stadium project.

In an interview with the Bronx News Network before he was elected in a special election on April 21, Diaz criticized the Stadium and Gateway CBAs, said he supported the signing of a CBA and a PLA and would "inject" himself into the CBA/PLA conversations at the Armory. After the Board's 60-day review timeframe ends, Diaz's office will have 30 days to review the project and decide whether or not to support it.

After Diaz sees it, the project goes back to the Planning Commission, then to the City Council, then to the Mayor and then back to the City Council.

There's more, but I'll save it for the book. Or a post later this week.

1 comment:

  1. you'll recall that on BronxTalk a few weeks ago the new borough president said that in cases like this, in particular when it came to the Armory, he would support agendas that community residents lay out.

    i guess we'll find out shortly whether he's prepared to stick to his guns.


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