Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Diaz: Armoryed and Dangerous?

The Bronx News Network puts Bronx BP Ruben Diaz front and center in the current Kingsbridge Armory fight: "The handling of the Armory project is Diaz's first major test as borough president, having taken over for Adolfo Carrion, following a special election in April. In his first few months, Diaz has been out attending events, cutting ribbons, giving speeches, marching in parades and starting up a few initiatives and programs. But now comes the hard part, trying to wring concessions (in the form of community benefits) out of a big development project like the one about to be undertaken at the Armory."

It appears to us that Diaz's challenge is to transcend the lap dog posture that his predecessor had when it came to development projects-from the Bronx Terminal Market to the building of the new Yankee Stadium: "Carrion's biggest critics, Diaz included, said the former B.P. didn't get enough back from huge projects like the New Yankee Stadium and Gateway Center Mall (another Related project) at the Bronx Terminal Market, which were heavily-subsidized with government funds and tax breaks. Diaz is now taking the lead on negotiating a community benefits agreement with Related, acting as a middle man between the developer and community stakeholders, which are mostly represented by the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA) and Community Board 7."

This is a somewhat interesting take since the BP's role-unlike, say, that of the City Council's, is strictly advisory; which limits the kind of leverage he can bring to bear with Related. That being said, it would behoove Diaz to work in collaboration with the Bronx council delegation-something that we haven't seen him doing up to this point.

Which brings us to the supermarket imbroglio. The entire council delegation, led by its dean Maria Baez, has demanded the removal of any supermarket/big box food use from the Armory; a point that Baez's aide Sherman Browne made at the BP's hearing last evening. Will Diaz support the council's position? It is an interesting political situation, especially given the fractious nature of the current political scene in the Bronx.

In any case, if the delegation's position remains firm, then there's a better than decent chance that the supermarket issue can be laid to rest in the short term-which will leave the CBA negotiations to be resolved as the ULURP application wends its way towards the City Council this fall. By that time, the BP's role will in all likelihood be more secondary-that is unless he can craft a collaborative team that includes the borough's council members who will be charged with the ultimate decision-making responsibility.


Bronx 12 News has a nice piece on last nights hearing.