NEW ROCHELLE, NY — Before the announcement of a Containment Zone in New Rochelle in early March, Talk of the Sound had the opportunity to tour the New Rochelle Naval Armory as work to stabilize the building was nearing completion. Plans to unveil the now-completed result are now on hold as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s too bad because the result of the work has been remarkable. Many longtime New Rochelle residents are anxious to see for themselves. While not a project to fully restore the building, the result is amazing nonetheless.
Suzanne Reider, Senior Project Manager of New Rochelle’s Department of Development in in charge of the project led the tour.
Entering the Drill Hall from large doors facing Echo Bay, one is taken in by the sheer expanse of the dramatic barrel-vaulted ceiling. Steel “ribs” soar over 100 feet overhead. decades of rust scraped off and painted black. The interior of the wood-paneled roof makes for an elegant contrast like a hip loft apartment built for Paul Bunyan with room for a herd of blue oxen
The deck of the Drill Hall has been completely removed — including the maze of plywood walls set up years ago for the New Rochelle Chamber of Commerce Halloween Haunted House, a beat up blue hatchback car and mountains of debris — down to the concrete sub-floor.
The effect is to accentuate the scale of the space, leaving to the imagination possible uses for such a large, interesting and rare space in Westchester County.
The Armory is really two connected buildings with the open Drill Hall space on one side and three floors of rooms on the other.
The two upper floors of rooms could be converted into apartments or office space.
Each floor has a large community space with a massive fireplace.
Above is a tower apartment with an iron spiral staircase leading to the roof.
The basement floor houses additional space including the physical plant for the heating and plumbing system, a rifle range and more rooms.
The side of the building with the rooms is not part of the demolition and rehabilitation project.
They do not appear to be in bad shape but the walls are covered in graffiti and old furniture and equipment are squirreled away in some of the rooms.
Marie Kondo, a paint scraper and some whitewash would go a long way here.
The New Rochelle Naval Armory, built in 1932, became the permanent home of the 31st Fleet Division of the New York Naval Militia in 1933. The Armory served as a military training ground and meeting place for recruits.
For a more complete history click here.
In 1997, the City of New Rochelle bought the New Rochelle Armory from New York State for $1 with the provision that the property would be maintained as a public recreation and municipal space. Veterans groups have vigorously opposed any development plans that include tearing down the building.
In February 2017, and subsequently in April 2018, the City was awarded grant funds through the Restore New York Communities Initiative which included funds to demolish and rehabilitate several structures on surplus properties on the Echo Bay waterfront, including two city-owned properties on Huntington Place, the former Mancuso marina parcel and the former Nelstad cement plant — all part of a larger assemblage of properties proposed by Twining Properties.
The City of New Rochelle received a grant award in the amount of $265,730 to demolish the existing structures.
The City sought additional money for rehabilitation funds to stabilize the New Rochelle Armory roof. The proposed work involved asbestos removal and deconstruction of the roof to temporarily stabilize it to prevent further deterioration with the intent of fully rehabilitating the structure in the near future.
Restore New York provides municipalities with financial assistance for revitalization of commercial and residential properties. The program encourages community development and neighborhood growth through the elimination and redevelopment of blighted structures. Funding is available for projects involving the demolition, deconstruction, rehabilitation and/or reconstruction of vacant, abandoned, condemned and surplus properties.
On March 26, 2018, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that nearly $11 million was awarded to ten Mid-Hudson Region municipalities through Round 5 of the Restore New York Communities Initiative. Nearly $81 million was awarded to 71 municipalities statewide. Of that, the City of New Rochelle was awarded $1 million for its application, Rehabilitation of the New Rochelle Armory, including roof deconstruction, asbestos removal and interior finishes to fully rehabilitate the structure as part of the Echo Bay Waterfront Redevelopment.
“This is a reimbursement grant,” City Manager Chuck Strome said at the time. “We’d have to put the money up and then seek reimbursement from the state. The money has to be spent on the building itself.”
The work has been badly needed. Since the 1990s, the structure deteriorated, with multiple attempts at redevelopment going nowhere. There was rampant mold and asbestos throughout the building, and the roof was caving in.
Twining Properties is planning to develop the Armory site as part of its Pratt Landing development project on Echo Bay, which includes shops, apartments, restaurants and parks.
Twinings agreed to put up a minimum of $1 million for the rehabilitation. The city will cover another $1 million, through the Restore NY Initiative grant.
￼Recently, Talk of the Sound conducted an email interview with Min J. Lee, Development Director for Twining Properties about the Armory Demolition and Rehabilitation project:
Q. When did work start on the project to stabilize the armory?
A. The work of the project to stabilize the Armory including asbestos removal started from June, 2019.
Q. What are the details of the Empire grant? Dollar amounts?
Total of $124,600 ESD Grant was awarded for 1) Armory Drill Hall’s roof stabilization and asbestos removal and 2) shoreline restoration and removal of abandoned industrial buildings on adjacent Mancuso and Nelstad lots . (Lot 110 & 120, the City owned parcels)
Armory Drill Hall – Roof Stabilization and Asbestos Removal
Total Project Cost: $2,271,518
ESD Grant: $1,000,000
Mancuso & Nelstad Lots – Shoreline Restoration & Removal of Abandoned Industrial Buildings
Total Cost: $376,995
ESD Grant: $124,600
The ESD Grant will be utilized to cover the portion of removal cost of the abandoned industrial buildings. (removal cost: $267,995)
Q. What is the scope of work on the project?
The scope of work specific to the ESD Grant is to remove the asbestos and stabilize the roof of Armory’s Drill Hall and remove the existing abandoned industrial buildings on the City owned parcels, Mancuso and Nelstad lots. These lots were previously utilized as Marina and Concrete plant.
Restore NY funding will be used towards the rehabilitation of the core and shell of the New Rochelle Armory, a 16,000 square-foot, prominent, vaulted structure building. As a part of the overall Pratt Landing development project, Restore NY IV funds will be used towards the demolition of two buildings, on City-owned parcels at Huntington Place, Block 84, Mancuso Lot 110 and Nelstad Lot 120, measuring 53,580 square- feet and 39,200 square-feet respectively and to conduct shoreline restoration along the perimeter of the sites.
As currently proposed by the City and the developer, Twining Properties, the overall Pratt Landing project aims to develop and enhance infrastructure and/or other facilities in a manner that will attract, create and sustain employment opportunities. The stabilization of the Armory and revitalization of the waterfront will introduce new uses that complement the surrounding neighborhood, provide residential living, capitalize on adjacent public parks, and honor current zoning and existing development guidelines. And the Armory is a key to the overall restoration project as the City envisions its rebirth as a retail anchor and continued landmark.
Q. When do you expect work to be completed?
The work is largely completed. The plan was April 2020 but we are on hold due to pandemic.
The big day can not come soon enough.
New Rochelle Naval Armory Stabilization Project 2020 Slideshow (37 images. Before Images courtesy of Suzanne Reider. After Images courtesy of Jen Parente.