Council approves Kingsbridge ice center

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The City Council struck a deal on developing an ice skating rink complex at the vacant Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx - a legacy project Mayor Bloomberg wants in his broad development portfolio.

In an 11th-hour deal, the council approved the plan with the support of Councilman Fernando Cabrera, whose district houses the armory.

"This will be a world-class destination that will hopefully help to create more activity and really revitalize the Kingsbridge Armory and bring more resources and jobs to this part of the Bronx," Council Speaker Christine Quinn said before the vote.

Cabrera was opposed to the plan as recently as Monday, but said he was swayed by a $250,000 commitment from the developer, KNIC Partners, to mitigate traffic issues in the surrounding area.

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"We're very proud of this project," Cabrera said. "We're talking about 180 living-wage jobs; we're talking about close to 1,000 construction jobs."

Cabrera dodged questions on whether he demanded the developer pay $100,000 a year for 99 years to a not-for-profit group Community Action Unlimited, which is tied to his church.

"I already have addressed that issue so I'm not going to cover that issue again. This is a time to rejoice," Cabrera said.

He then refused to reiterate his previous statements when asked by a reporter.

The armory - widely considered a blight on the troubled neighborhood - will be transformed into nine ice skating rinks, 64,300 square feet of program space, 58,100 square feet of stores and about 50,000 square feet for a community facility, Quinn said.

It also will include a parking garage with 457 spaces.

Kingsbridge was the crux of a major fight between the council and Bloomberg when Quinn refused to pass a retail deal for the space in 2009 because it did not mandate the would-be builder pay a so-called living wage.

That fallout led to the Council passing a bill last year that requires developers taking at least $1 million in city subsidies to pay their workers $11.50 an hour, or $10 with benefits.

The council also passed a bill require the FDNY change how it calculates response times to emergencies, in light of the death of 4-year-old Ariel Russo six months ago after she was struck by an SUV.

Critics blamed a subsequent four-minute wait for an ambulance, which was the subject of a city Department of Investigation probe.

The legislation mandates response times begin when a call is placed to a 911 operator instead of when that call is dispatched to a second operator, who would send a first responder.

Russo's mother tearfully addressed reporters about the bill before the council voted.

The Bloomberg administration actually announced it would recalculate response times earlier this year.

"Today's Tuesday; Tuesday's are hard because Ariel was born on a Tuesday and she died on a Tuesday, but there's something good happening on this Tuesday because this law is being passed in her honor" Sophia Russo said.

"Even though my child died, she didn't die in vain," she added.