State of the State: Cuomo boosts Kingsbridge Armory project, blames legislature for holding up affordable housing funds

Governor did not explicitly mention 421a

<em>Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the 2017 State of the State Address in New York City (credit: Gov. Andrew Cuomo via Flickr)</em>
Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the 2017 State of the State Address in New York City (credit: Gov. Andrew Cuomo via Flickr)

The long stalled Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment is expected to get another boost from the state, but according to the Bronx borough president, the city is still standing in the project’s way.

During the first of a series of State of the State addresses, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that the state will provide $108 million to the redevelopment of the Bronx armory into an ice rink. The sum is the remainder of the $138 million that the state previously promised to commit to the project.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. later praised the governor for the announcement, but criticized the city for not supporting it and other projects.

“We continue to see a lack of partnership and enthusiasm for them from City Hall. Strong backing from Albany will allow them to prosper,” he said. “We can only hope now that the administration will see the wisdom in bringing these projects to fruition.”

Over the past year, the Kingsbridge National Ice Center (KNIC) development group, led by New York Rangers legend Mark Messier, has been fighting the city over the project’s finances. The city wouldn’t turn over the 99-year lease for the property until KNIC showed that it had $158 million for the project’s first phase.

Though the developer argued that the state already promised to provide $138 million for the project, the city held firm in its refusal. Earlier this month, the Empire State Development Corporation [TRDataCustom] approved a $30 million loan for the project, which is expected to cost $350 million. The addition $108 million from the state will be approved separately.

“The city has worked diligently to move this project forward, including granting extension after extension as the developer has sought to secure financing,” Melissa Grace, a spokesperson for the mayor, said in a statement. “We appreciate the state’s proposal, and look forward to hearing the details.”

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Cuomo also announced that the state will provide $10 million to the $40 million redevelopment of Orchard Beach, a project that Diaz announced last year. Diaz — whom Cuomo has publicly praised at numerous occasions in the past year amid rumors that he was considering a bid for mayor — stood up and applauded the Orchard and Kingsbridge announcements.

Though Cuomo’s address took place on the 64th floor of One World Trade Center and was the first stop in a statewide tour, not much of the governor’s speech focused exclusively on New York City. He only briefly touched on his massive infrastructure projects — like the redevelopment of LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports. The governor also repeated his call on the state legislature to release $2 billion in affordable housing funds. In September, Cuomo advanced a memorandum of understanding that will release the funds, but the Assembly and Senate have yet to sign it. Cuomo said their inaction is putting 100,000 affordable and supportive housing in jeopardy.

“The money is there,” he said. “We need it now. We need it in the winter. We need it in the cold. It is time for the state legislature to act.”

Cuomo has previously implied that the legislature is holding the funds hostage until 421a is reinstated. The governor didn’t directly mention the tax abatement during his speech, even though several industry bigwigs, including Building and Construction Trades Council President Gary LaBarbera, Dan Tishman, Bill Rudin and others were in the audience. A new version of the tax abatement is expected to be introduced in the coming months.

The governor spent much of the speech emphasizing that the state is the “progressive capital of the nation” — perhaps giving Mayor Bill de Blasio a bit of a run for his money as what the New York Time’s coined as Trump’s “Opponent in Chief.” (In fact, Cuomo said the word “progressive” at least nine times during his 40 minute speech.)

Though he didn’t mention Donald Trump by name, many of Cuomo’s proposals took aim at the president-elect’s policies. For one, Cuomo announced a public-private defense project that will provide legal representation to individuals regardless of their citizenship status. He also re-proposed the Dream Act, a tuition program for undocumented students, and launched a statewide task force to deal with the rise in hate crimes in the state. Trump has pledged to yank all federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities.

“We will calm the waters, we will stop the opposing currents and we will align the energy of both,” Cuomo said. “When all are headed in the same direction that will create a current that is so strong it pulls all forward.”