The Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx has sat vacant for 20 years, but on Tuesday the City Council approved a new plan to turn it into a large ice skating complex. It wasn’t easy. The deal almost fell through at the last minute. NY1’s Courtney Gross filed the following report.
"It’s a good moment for my district."
In a last minute deal, Councilman Fernando Cabrera reached an agreement with the mayor's office and a developer to transform the Kingsbridge Armory into a massive ice rink complex.
The Council voted 48-1 in favor of the plan on Tuesday, with the only dissenting vote coming from Brooklyn Councilman Charles Barron.
"I was the catalyst in getting this project started," Cabrera said.
Back in April, the councilman appeared with the mayor and the borough president championing the project with hockey legend Mark Messier.
But in the final weeks of the negotiations, Cabrera decided to withhold his support.
On Tuesday, he explained that decision to NY1.
"There is no way that anyone has the capacity or the possibility of being able to understand all of the potential problems that can arise,” Cabrera said.
"Look, he was in a position to negotiate, right. He needed to make sure he came out with the best deal for the community," said Bronx Councilwoman Annabel Palma.
Cabrera said his hesitation to support the project was rooted in potential traffic problems.
But his flip-flop came after Cabrera was accused of soliciting thousands of dollars in donations from the developer, KNIC Partners, for a local non-profit connected with the councilman's church, where he is a pastor.
Cabrera denies it.
"It's disturbing that sometimes people use strategies to be able to try to distract on the main issues,” Cabrera said.
About 2 million people are expected to visit the center every year.
The new development will include nine indoor rinks. It will create about 200 permanent living wage jobs.
This is the second time the City Council has considered redeveloping the armory in four years.
In 2009, it rejected a plan to turn it into a mall because the council couldn't secure the creation of living wage jobs.
This time around, Cabrera says he secured cash from the developer for a traffic study as well as signage and free legal services for local businesses.
That, he says, sunk his concerns.