Court Battle Brews on Bronx Skating-Rink

     BRONX, N.Y. (CN) — New York City’s economic development arm is conspiring to thwart a developer’s $350 million plan to turn the world’s largest armory into a massive indoor ice rink.
     Retired professional hockey player Mark Messier and 2002 Olympic figure skater Sarah Hughes are two of the officers with the KNIC development team that brought this week’s lawsuit.
     “Few projects have promised greater benefits to the people of the Bronx and the City of New York than the planned transformation of the historic Kingsbridge Armory into the Kingsbridge National Ice Center,” the 33-page complaint states.
     KNIC filed the suit Tuesday against the New York City Economic Development Corp., a nonprofit that it says has “conspired with three individuals who worked on the project but are no longer associated with it to steal the project from KNIC.”
     A nonprofit, not a government agency, the EDC works closely with city officials to develop and invest in various projects around the city. The Kingsbridge Armory, a historic former military barracks, was one such project.
     KNIC obtained its 99-year lease on the Armory in 2014, announcing plans to convert the New York City landmark into the world’s largest indoor ice skating rink, a project billed at generating $2 billion in the area.
     That same year, three former KNIC partners — Jonathan Richter, Marcus Wignell and Jeff Spiritos — brought and settled a lawsuit against KNIC over their ouster.
     These three individuals are the nonparty co-conspirators KNIC’s new lawsuit invokes.
     The developer says Richter, Spiritos and Wignless soured its relationship with the EDC with a letter that said EDC founder Kevin Parker had no authority to act on behalf of KNIC.
     At the request of the EDC’s president at the time, according to the complaint, the city started investigating KNIC’s project financing and later demanded the lease be held in escrow until KNIC satisfied additional financing conditions.
     KNIC claims it complied, raising more than $20 million and securing an additional $138 million in senior debt financing from New York Empire State Development Corp. It also had previously raised tens of millions from hockey equipment company Performance Sports Group and the investment organization Kresge Foundation.
     Despite meeting the $158 million escrow requirement in February 2016, the complaint states, the EDC has continued to hold the lease documents in escrow, claiming it had received only an unexecuted term sheet from KNIC.
     Throughout the process, KNIC has spent “millions of dollars to win the right to redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory,” the complaint states, noting that unless the lease is delivered to KNIC, the Kingsbridge ice rink will likely never come to pass.
     KNIC says it had originally planned to unveil the complex in summer 2017, which marks the 100th anniversary of the completion and opening of the armory itself and the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Hockey League. KNIC’s Messier played for the NHL’s New York Rangers.
     The EDC did not return a call seeking comment.
     The New York Post quoted an EDC spokesperson as saying the organization had “bent over backwards to support the Kingsbridge project through continued legal and operational challenges faced by the KNIC team,” and that “any allegations to the contrary are totally unfounded.”
     Spiritos, Wignell, and Richter could not be located for comment.

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