Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Kingsbridge Armory Development Caught in a Draft

As the NY Daily News is reporting today, the environmental impact study that was done for the Kimgsbridge Armory seriously underestimates the traffic impacts of the project-and that's even without the inclusion of a supermarket: "The Draft Environmental Impact Statement by the developer for the Kingsbridge Armory is coming under scrutiny - and under fire from opponents of the project. It is the key document upon which the City Planning Commission will weigh its decision before the issue moves to the City Council for a final vote. The owners of the Bronx-based Morton Williams supermarket chain hired consultants to pick apart the DEIS produced by the developer, The Related Companies, which has plans for a 60,000-square-foot supermarket that Morton Williams says will drive its flagship store across the street out of business. The grocers' consultant, Brian Ketcham, found Related's DEIS dramatically underestimated the adverse traffic impacts - several of which the document already concedes cannot be mitigated."

Anyone who has any knowledge of the community surrounding the Armory-and the complicated access that it has from any major highway route-understands just what the potential traffic nightmare could be if this project is fully tenanted with chain stores-and Ketcham's not the only one who sees this: "John Lapp, an adjunct professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, with long experience in the Kingsbridge area, agreed with the broad criticism that traffic impacts could be much worse than the DEIS predicts.
"Even omitting the supermarket, it would be too much retail for an already congested area, with two-lane streets plagued with double parking," he said. Lapp, formerly head of the Bronx Office of City Planning and Director of Transportation for the City Planning Commission, also doubted the 400 planned parking spaces would be enough for the traffic draw of a 600,000-square-foot retail development. He cited a smaller project on the upper East Side that he worked on that included 475 parking spaces and still snarled area traffic."

Joan Bryan from Pratt also sees problems here: "Joan Byron, the director of sustainability at the Pratt Center for Community Development, said she agreed with many of Ketcham's criticisms. "It does look like the DEIS is trying to have it both ways," Byron said of the vast study area chosen for the economic analysis. She said it obscured the actual impact on nearby businesses. The tightly circumscribed zone of the traffic analysis, she said, left out nearby intersections that would likely suffer adverse impacts."

Which does mean that Kermit the Mayor has a problem here-since he wants to reduce our-but not his own-carbon footprint; but continues to mall the city in such a way that he encourages the kind of auto-dependent shopping that erodes the healthier-from an individual as well as community standpoint-neighborhood retail environment. But the critique that Ketcham provides, gives opponents an opportunity to argue that the entire project, even without a supermarket, deserves to be defeated.

This leaves Related with a difficult choice; removing the supermarket as a real deal killer is only one necessary step. Sufficiency here means that the developer needs to engage in meaningful negotiations with KARA and BP Diaz on a CBA that includes a living wage component-or risk the potential defeat of the entire project. If, however, it feels that this is a deal killer, Related can simply take its ball and go home. Will anyone in the Kingsbridge community miss them?