Editorial: Welcome to a renaissance in the Bronx

This artist's rendering provided by the New York

This artist's rendering provided by the New York City Mayor's office shows the proposed Kingsbridge National Ice Center to be constructed in the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx. The project is to include nine rinks, one of which would be designed to host hockey tournaments. (April 23, 2013) (Credit: Handout)

Today the Bronx is burning with ambition.

The Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point is poised to open near Throgs Neck next year. The new Bronx Terminal Market shopping complex near Yankee Stadium is a home run. And Thursday State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli released a report showing that private-sector employment in the borough grew by 7.7 percent between 2007 and 2012 -- a pace outstripped only by Brooklyn.

It's quite an achievement. For decades the borough's urban decay was defined by the building fires caught on camera during Game 2 of the 1977 World Series. A few days before that game, President Jimmy Carter had stood in a rubble-strewn lot on Charlotte Street and demanded federal action to help rescue beleaguered cities.

Now -- in the past three decades -- the Bronx has seen a 33 percent gain in jobs and a 20 percent gain in residents.

But the most intriguing idea on the drawing board today is a $275-million plan to turn the 750,000-square-foot Kingsbridge Armory, built in 1917, into what promoters are calling the largest indoor ice-skating and hockey complex on Earth. The Kingsbridge National Ice Center will offer nine year-round ice rinks, a 5,000-seat arena, and major hockey and skating events. Former Rangers star Mark Messier and Olympic figure skater Sarah Hughes have signed on as two of the center's public faces.

Backers say they'll devote 50,000 square feet to community uses -- great for introducing big-city kids to the demanding sports of skating and hockey. Promoters predict the place will draw more than 2 million visitors annually.

So why the Bronx? Why not the Bronx? The armory is a unique, landmarked space in the heart of America's largest regional economy and media epicenter. Though an earlier plan for a $310-million shopping complex in the building foundered in a nasty living-wage fight, the ice center is a strong backup and far less loaded with political tripwires.

As DiNapoli notes, challenges remain in the borough. Unemployment and poverty rates are still too high and educational attainment is still too low. But the renaissance is under way -- and that's extraordinary news.

Tags: OPINION , ARTICLE , AMNY , LIVE

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