The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer

The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer

The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer


The Promising Rebirth of the Kingsbridge Armory

After decades of failed attempts by others to repurpose the vacant facility, a new proposal from a local Bronx nonprofit organization sparks potential interest
A local Bronx nonprofit organization plans to revive the abandoned Kingsbridge Armory.

 The Kingsbridge Armory in The Bronx is vast to say the least. Spanning a staggering 570,000 square feet, it is the largest armory in the U.S., more massive than Windsor Castle. It’s been abandoned for 20 years, ever since the National Guard transferred its ownership to the city in 1996. It’s been used as the occasional film set, and as a food pantry during the pandemic, but in terms of economic utilization, nothing has come to fruition. 

Now, walking down the street, the endless hustle and bustle of New York life is right outside the armory, with a non-stop flow of traffic, a boisterous elevated Subway rattling overhead and the chatter coming from local businesses.

The theme of revival is everywhere around the Kingsbridge Armory. Every day, the armory stands vacant as everything around it evolves and adapts to modern life. However, after almost three decades of failed opportunities, community groups said they have found a way to bring the towering red brick armory back to life. 

The New York Times has reported that the nonprofit organization, Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, has created a development proposal to construct about 200 housing apartments and install a 5,000 to 30,000-person performance space with Live Nation, complete with a commercial kitchen and food stalls consisting of local vendors.  

The New York Economic Development Corporation will decide which group will receive the $200 million city and state-funded investment. 

After several failed redevelopment attempts over the years, some community members are unimpressed with new suggestions. 

William McCormack, the director of education at the Bronx County Historical Society, said it is a shame the armory hasn’t been repurposed since the ’90s. 

“The city owns it, nothing has been done there overtime,” McCormack said. “It’s a loss because it’s a huge site and it’s not being used for anything.” 

McCormack said there is room for hope now, with the Coalition leading the development. 

“They are a wonderful group and have long standing commitments to civic communities in the Bronx,” he said. “I think there are a lot of reasons for optimism.” 

After several failed redevelopment attempts over the years, some community members are unimpressed with new suggestions. 

“Everyone has, over the years, kind of given up on excitement for any of the various plans because so many of them have fallen through in the past,” Nick Dembowski, president of the Kingsbridge Historical Society, said.

“What they put in should be businesses that benefit the community.” William McCormack, the director of education at the Bronx County Historical Society,

However, Dembowski said he’s excited about the Coalition’s plan. 

“Everyone who lives in the area knows about that building, and everyone sort of has an affinity for it because it’s a beautiful, large iconic building,” Dembowski said. “But I think this one sounds the most promising of anything I’ve heard.” 

According to McCormack, there have been unsuccessful plans over the years to remodel the armory into an exposition center, a mall and even an ice-skating rink. 

“I think probably in retrospect that was good, because to me, it was a stupid thing to have,” McCormack said of the ice rink. “What they put in should be businesses that benefit the community.” 

“It was never going to be a mall. The community did not want a mall.”  Leah James, former lead organizer for the armory’s redevelopment

According to “Our Armory Report,” an assessment made by the Coalition, the ice rink project was shut down in 2021. This decision was made about a decade after getting approved, due to the Kingsbridge National Ice Center failing to meet financial obligations. 

Before the ice-rink proposal, former Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg planned to turn the armory into a small mall. That idea was unpopular within the community, according to Leah James, former lead organizer for the armory’s redevelopment. 

“It was never going to be a mall,” James said. “The community did not want a mall.”  

The Coalition’s report reveals the developer for the mall denied fulfilling the Coalition’s guidelines. The group countered their proposal by organizing themselves strongly and overthrowing it.  

The community wants a plan that will economically benefit residents of the Bronx, “the poorest county in New York State.” Dembowski believes there is potential in the Coalition’s proposal for employment growth. 

“I think some of the ideas that are being floated for this plan such as a kitchen that will give licenses to food cart vendors, job training, small workshops like a little carpentry workshop and small industry,” Dembowski said. 

Dembowski anticipates that these jobs will help those in poor financial situations. 

“Hopefully, the sorts of jobs that would conceivably lift a person out of poverty,” Dembowski said. “Certainly, a building like that, being vacant or scarcely used, is not providing any jobs so this would be a benefit for sure.”

J. Phillip Thompson, a professor of urban planning and politics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and former deputy mayor of strategic initiatives for the City of New York, said the weight of the Coalition’s proposal centers on economic progress.

“I think the stress of the Northwest Bronx proposal is really to create better jobs,” Thompson said. “You have good jobs that help surrounding businesses because they spend money where they live,” he said.  

As someone who has seen the project stumble and fail before, James believed that the group that wins the investment should improve lives. “I think that just anything that should be there should still have the mindset of protecting what’s around it,” James said. “Whatever’s built there should be an economic engine for time. It should have benefits.”

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