Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Armored for Battle

According to this morning's NY Daily News, CB# 7 in the Bronx is beginning a discussion process for the Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment plans: "As the vacant Kingsbridge Armory continues its long march toward redevelopment, the local community board is aiming to take command of the community approval process. Community Board 7 plans to convene a number of stakeholders meetings over the summer to make sure neighborhood residents' views are heard as the city finalizes plans for the 575,000-square-foot former National Guard armory."

All in all, this isn't a bad idea. The more the community is allowed in, the greater the opportunity there is to insure that the process reflects its views. That doesn't mean, however, that the end product will be community friendly-not with our friends at Related Companies in the driver's seat: "It's the beginning of a series of meetings to develop a good working relationship with the developer," said CB7 District Manager Fernando Tirado. Tirado plans for the meeting to break into smaller discussion groups to make a list of the topics for the community board to raise with the city and the developer before the next stakeholders meeting, which Tirado expects to hold next month."

Maybe the DM will midwife an epiphany here; with Related all of a sudden becoming imbued with real community concern. Nothing in its resume suggests that this is likely to happen any time soon. Which means to us that KARA, the real community coalition, has its work cut out for itself.

And the posture of Mr. Tirado appears to underscore this point: "Separate from CB7's process, the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance, a coalition of community groups, unions and churches led by the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, is pressuring Related to sign a binding community benefits agreement. While not discounting the idea of a CBA, Tirado said he hopes to keep the conversation more cooperative than confrontational. "The armory is bigger than any of us," said Tirado, "and it will outlast all of us."

This might be setting up to be a fight between the community board, and its putative relationship to the community's welfare, and KARA, a genuine grass roots phenomenon. In the Bronx this makes for interesting theater but the real battle is for what's best for the Kingsbridge community. The danger lies that the fight between the locals will only benefit the bottom line of Related.