In 2022, Hester Street (HST) partnered with New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) to devise a community engagement strategy that centered the priorities of Kingsbridge residents in efforts to revitalize the Kingsbridge Armory, a decommissioned armory in the Northwest Bronx. Built in the early 20th century, the armory originally served as a military facility and was the largest armory in the world, before it was left vacant and in disrepair by the 1990s. Over the years, NYCEDC has worked with elected officials to solicit proposals from potential investors to rehabilitate the space for new uses. Previous plans included a neighborhood shopping mall and a skating rink complex, but none came to fruition.

Over six months in 2023, our team collaborated with the “Together for Kingsbridge” community working group of neighborhood leaders, community-based organizations, key institutions, federal and state elected officials, and others—led by co-chairs New York City Councilmember Pierina Sanchez and Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC) Executive Director Sandra Lobo – to carry out an extensive community engagement process in order to reach the Kingsbridge neighborhood’s distinct cultural communities, determine community priorities, and create a vision plan for the armory that met residents’ needs. We facilitated monthly community working group meetings, weekly calls with elected officials and community members, hosted three public workshops, and partnered with NYCEDC on site tours and touchpoints with schools, parks, and businesses. From conversations with residents, we received feedback around their goals for embedding workforce and youth development opportunities through local hire practices, creating room for arts and culture, and making the armory an equitable, multi-use space for the community.

On August 8, 2023, Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul announced $200 million in funding toward the redevelopment of the armory in conjunction with NYCEDC’s release of the Kingsbridge vision plan. HST’s deep community engagement work on this project will ensure that the forthcoming request for proposals will be informed by community priorities for the Kingsbridge armory, building a more equitable and vibrant future for this historic landmark.