Bronx Beep Not Impressed by Some Kingsbridge Armory Applicants

With just days left to apply to lease or buy a century-old landmarked building that's considered one of the city's most desirable properties, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. said he has been disappointed by some of the applicants.

Proposals to redevelop the the 575,000 square foot Kingsbridge Armory began coming in after Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in January he hoped the red brick hall with turrets and a vaulted roof would "soon be transformed into a place that benefits the community and employs community members."

But Diaz, who said a film studio or sports facility would create more jobs than some of the other proposals and draw more people to the Bronx, doesn't believe all applicants would truly benefit the surrounding neighborhood. Proposals are due March 22.

"There are some folks who have made presentations that we are not too excited about,” Diaz said. “I don't know if having a megachurch there is gonna be the best use for the armory."

World Changers Church, a part of televangelist Creflo Dollar's empire, sent several representatives to the site last month and made a presentation to his office.

Though he could not disclose who had submitted applications, Silvercup Studios and other film and TV studios have expressed an interest. And among the more than 60 recent visitors to the site were representatives of banks, architects, and supermarkets.

The city's Request for Proposals says nothing about houses of worship, but discourages "suburban models of big-box stores" because they can cause traffic congestion. Only non-residential uses will be considered.

The Armory features a column-free 180,000 square foot drill floor and an even larger basement space. It has been vacant for more than a decade. In 2003, the city completed a $30 million rehab of the building.

In 2009, the Armory became a political football, as the Bloomberg Administration sought to help a developer transform the Armory into a retail hub, and the City Council balked at the deal because it did not require a so-called living wage for workers there. Diaz also opposed the proposal.

In January, Bloomberg announced a second effort to revive the still-empty site, this time with Diaz' support. The issue of wages has now been effectively been decoupled from the site's future.

Diaz said "many of them have already volunteered to make sure that they pay their workers at least a living wage. If you look at the film studio, that wouldn't be up for debate, because in the film industry people get paid twice as much as the living wage."

A spokesman for the city's Economic Development Corporation said the winning applicant will be chosen based on a variety of factors, including financial commitment and the number of jobs created.

The EDC has not set a timeline for selecting a proposal.

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