Monday, December 14, 2009

Armory Witching Hour

As we head in to today's final vote on the Kingsbridge Armory project, all signs point to the development's demise-but the proverbial fat lady, while warming up warbling a few notes, has yet to sing; and anything can happen when the council convenes this morning. Still, if what we're hearing is true, than this could be an historic day.

But whatever does happen what is indubitable is the incredible grass roots lobbying effort done by the RWDSU/KARA-led coalition-and the effort of MortonWilliams and the other local supermarkets as well. If the Armory land use application is defeated, it will be because the Bloomberg administration simply couldn't stomach any worker-friendly constraints on its development demiurge; and because the coalition was so successful at drumming up support in the Bronx council delegation, and the body as a whole, for a living wage and worker rights.

Remember, this all started with the delegation unanimously agreeing that Related the developer couldn't contradict the city's RFP and include a supermarket in the proposed project-and it was all downhill from there for the city's most powerful real estate interest. Still, a compromise could emerge at even this late hour, but our sources are telling us that sometime today the fat lady will be singing, and the community of Kingsbridge Heights will be celebrating. Stay tuned.


Bronx News Network gives an excellent historical overview of the efforts to develop the Armory-and points out how Related's plan bears little resemblance to the community plan original put forward: "Unfortunately, little is recognizable in Related's plan from those original blueprints the Coalition hammered out with Pratt and later iterations from KARA. Related is not calling the project Shops at the Armory for nothing. It’s a shopping mall pure and simple."

Which is why, according to BNN, the living wage demands are so compelling: "So, that’s why the living wage demanded by KARA is so important. If the project, say, included three schools and funding for a community center, maybe budging on the living wage would make sense. But it doesn’t include those things or anything else the community badly needs."

And just perhaps, this is a posthumous revenge for the merchants at the Bronx Terminal Market who got their businesses terminated in Dan Doctoroff's sweetheart deal with Related: "Perhaps having learned from Related's too-sweet deal at the Gateway Center or feeling a little guilty about falling for the city's promise to replace the parkland occupied by the new Yankee Stadium anytime soon, Bronx politicians have been taking an unprecedented tough stand on the Armory and getting out in front of the Coalition – which packed over 1,000 people into a school gym for an October meeting that mainly focused on the Armory."

And the role of Bronx BP Ruben Diaz stands out here: "A new borough president, Ruben Diaz, Jr., has provided spirited leadership in stark contrast to his predecessor, Adolfo Carrion, who was essentially Bloomberg's deputy mayor for Bronx development. The borough' Council members have coalesced around Diaz (though we'll see how tightly on Monday)."

And Joel Rivera also receives kudos: "Now Joel Rivera, who has emerged to the surprise of many as articulate spokesman for this issue in the City Council, has the ball. “In my book, this is an economic exploitation project,” Rivera said in November. “We need to change the conversation with the administration.”

But newly installed delegation head Annabel Palma also deserves credit in all this-and the Bronx delegation as a whole is poised to perhaps set the development agenda for the next four years: "With their decision on the Armory, Bronx elected officials can lead and even set the development agenda for the city going forward. Yes, that may mean the Armory lies vacant for the remainder of the Bloomberg administration. But we will survive without another cookie-cutter mall – we are not a suburb – and pushing the reset button will allow for a project that is both lucrative for a developer and an investment in our community, it workers, and its young people."

The ball is certainly in the Bronx delegation's court; and they can do themselves and KARA proud today-it's all up to them: "But now it's in the hands of Bronx elected officials who have shown some rare moxie in the fight thus far. They are finally in the driver's seat after being taken for a ride at Gateway, Yankee Stadium and the filtration plant. They can proudly cross the finish line or meekly toss the keys back to Mayor Bloomberg."