Places that Matter

Kingsbridge Armory

click on image for slideshow
Chester Burger
Chester Burger
Michelle Peña, 2009
Michelle Peña, 2009
A mammoth Armory in the Bronx, now vacant
Place Details »

Place Matters Profile

The Kingsbridge Armory has lorded over the Bronx since 1917. In recent years, the looming, vacant structure has been the subject of much debate over its reuse.

The armory, originally known as the Eighth Coastal Artillery Armory, was designed by the architects Pilcher & Tachau, based on a mid-nineteenth century reconstruction of a medieval castle at Pierrefonds, France. The massive building, with its vaulted trusses and detailed brick exterior walls, covers an entire city block. The armory features what was once the world’s largest drill hall, 300 by 600 feet (a feat of engineering inspired by nineteenth century train sheds), as well as an eight hundred seat theater. Reputedly the world’s largest armory, it was constructed between 1912 and 1917. The early twentieth century saw the construction of a number of armories, with war looming in Europe and the threat of strikes and riots at home. The last military use of the Kingsbridge Armory came in the blackout of 1977, when the National Guard were sent out to restore order.

In 1993, the National Guard left the structure and turned it over to New York City. Numerous proposals have been made over the years for the reuse of the vacant building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a New York City landmark. The Giuliani administration wanted to use the space for a mall and sports complex along the lines of Chelsea Piers, while local residents expressed the desire to see the building adapted for a mixture of schools and other more community-oriented uses. The Armory’s windows and roof were renovated in 2003, but the interior requires extensive—and expensive—rehabilitation. In 2006, the city issued a request for proposals for a mixed-use facility. The city selected a proposal for a mall by the Related Companies in 2008, but the armory’s reuse remains elusive. The developer’s plan was voted down by the City Council the following year after negotiations with KARA (Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance) a group representing several community organizations, came to a halt over the question of a “living wage” for armory workers.

—Mariana Mogilevich, August 2010