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Bronx Week: Locals Remain Vocal About Development Of Vacant Kingsbridge Armory

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The Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx is possibly the largest of its kind in the world, and it has been the focus of an ongoing debate between the city and the community over its redevelopment. NY1's look back at two decades of reporting on the Bronx borough beat begins with Shazia Khan report on the battle over the armory.

Young Woo was new to the Bronx and found himself awestruck at the sight of the Kingsbridge Armory towering over his backyard. Forty years later, he is now vying for the chance to develop this massive Bronx bastion.

"I thought it was something very unusual and very special and stayed in my mind," says Woo.

Built in 1910, the landmarked armory has been on the minds of many after its military use ended in 1996 and the city took control. Since then, the five-acre site has sat mostly vacant, while the community has remained vocal about its rebirth.

The years have been marked with numerous rallies, proposals, protests and hearings over how to best redevelop this historic site. Community cries to build schools in and outside the armory were persistent.

In 2009, the city's Planning Commission approved the related companies' proposal to build a shopping mall, a plan that was strongly rejected by Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and voted down by the City Council.

The developer's refusal to guarantee "living wage" jobs in the subsidized space and concerns the mall would compete with local merchants ultimately killed the plan.

"We're not against commercial venture but we want a more holistic view that includes some of the things that are wanted and needed in our community," says Kwasi Akyeampong of the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance.

Earlier this year, city officials and the borough president reopened the process, calling for new proposals.

The top finalists include plans for the world's largest ice sports center and Woo's desire to create a mixed-used space that would include a marketplace, start-ups and recreation.

The city is expected to make a selection by the end of this year.

"When this is all said and done, we are totally optimistic that we are going to have a place where the armory is developed, where it's done so there's going to be living wage and it's going to be done so it's going to be a destination point," says Diaz.

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