We thought we'd try a little something different here on the blog today. Introducing our first ever photo narrative story. We'll show you photos and go through what happened last night as Community Board 7 voted to conditionally approve of the Related Companies' plan to turn the Kingsbridge Armory into a mall. Let us know what you think.
Held at the Bronx Library Center on Kingsbridge Road, the meeting was nearly packed by the time things got started at 6:30 p.m. The people in the green shirts were employess from the Morton Williams supermarket chain. There were a little more than 50 of them. They were there to tell the board members to vote against the project because Related plans to put a 60,000-square-foot supermarket into the Armory basement. Morton Williams reps say a giant supermarket will force them to close their two Bronx stores, fire at least 125 employees and move their headquarters out of the borough.
Members of the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance told board members to vote down the project because there was no Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) in place and the developer had not shown a commitment to giving back to the community. Instead of voting yes with conditions, KARA told them to vote no with conditions. Toward the end of the night, Cynthia O'Neal-Riley (left) said she empathized with the supermarket workers who might lose their jobs and ultimatelty voted against the project. Long-time board member John Franco (right) voted in favor of the project.
Just before the board voted, Council member Oliver Koppell (pictured with an aide) told board members to vote yes, with conditions, because it would give them the best chance to have input in the process going forward. If you vote no, he said, "that's all Council members like myself will remember." Following Koppell, local Assemblman Jose Rivera told board members to do the exact opposite. He told them to vote no and by doing so, they would send a message to City Hall and let big developers know that the community "wanted development, but that they have to develop with us."
After a vigorous discussion, board members voted to adopt an amendment to their list of conditions that stated the board would encourage Related to bring in a supermarket with a vast array of organic food options. After the vote, Morton Williams reps angrily stormed out of the meeting, but not before yelling at board members and telling them they just caused the loss of hundreds of quality Bronx jobs. Later board members said they simply wanted more options and that a new supermarket in the Armory could co-exist with the Morton Williams.
Dozens of youth activists, most of them supporters of KARA, were escorted out of the hearing by police when community board officials said they were being disorderly.
The expulsions and the departure of the supermarket workers meant only a few community members as well as representatives from Related (back row) and the city (back, standing) were left to witness the final vote.
Faulkner (right, with board member John Harris in the background) said he was confident the board had done the right thing. "Saying no would have been popular and it probably would have felt good. But we felt voting yes with conditions gave us the best shot to have a say in the process going forward."