Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Crain's-and its Insider-is doing its best to try to douse the euphoria of the successful opposition to the Kingsbridge Armory mall; focusing on the "job killing" aspect of the defeat, rather than on the job preservation: "It would have been the largest development project in the Bronx since the recession began, a $310 million effort to turn the sprawling, long-derelict Kingsbridge Armory into a 500,000-square-foot shopping mall. It would have created 1,000 construction jobs and permanent posts for about 1,200 retail workers. It enjoyed the backing of the local community board, the mayor, the construction and building trade unions, and others. But on Monday it died on the floor of the City Council."

Que l├ístima, as they say in the Bronx. But the Insider goes a step further in this vein by contradicting our pitch on identifying winners and losers in the Bloomberg debacle (subsc.): "Lobbyist Richard Lipsky pitched winners and losers to the Insider in the wake of the City Council's vote yesterday to kill the Kingsbridge Armory project. But Joanna Rose, a spokeswoman for The Related Companies—the would-be developer of the Bronx mall—has it right: “There are only losers,” she says."

She's right about all of the folks in her own shop; but absolutely wrong-as is our friend Engquist-in saying there aren't any winners. Every single supermarket in the impacted trade area, stores that have never taken a dime in city tax subsidies, is a winner this morning-as is all of the surrounding neighborhood small businesses that won't have to lose any business to the mall.

Crain's should be more sensitive, not only to large real estate interests, but to all businesses in the city. And for everyone besides the loser Related, this was a bad deal. Oh, but the Insider gets it right about the mayor at least: "Start with the Bloomberg administration, which failed to grasp the implications of starting the clock on a controversial land-use approval at a time when the final vote would precede the election of a council speaker. Christine Quinn was not willing to twist her members' arms to support the project three weeks before needing their votes for her re-election. She deferred to the Bronx delegation, which insisted that the project have a living-wage requirement. “If this vote were on Jan. 15, it might have come out differently,” says an insider. The result: Bloomberg's first rezoning defeat in more than 100 votes."

But what was really lost here, was lost right at the point that the city designated Related to develop the Armory-and watched helplessly it seems, while the developer peed on the terms of an EDC RFP that encouraged no competing retail use and an attempt to provide a living wage. Related ignored all of the community's hard work in developing a vision for the Armory and went right ahead with one of their cookie cutter retail malls.

And the trades took it on the chin-but it was 32 BJ that really was the labor loser-first stabbing the KARA coalition in the back to strike its own deal with Related, and then watched helplessly while its phone calls were ignored as the council walloped the development plan: "Kingsbridge was a disaster for organized labor. Building Trades, which stood to gain 1,000 construction jobs, split with RWDSU, and 32BJ followed suit after reaching some sort of understanding with Related."

And this was a stone winner for the RWDSU-and should be the harbinger for a city wide living wage bill. As its president Stuart Appelbaum told the NY Daily News: "But Stuart Applebaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said the Council voted "with a clear voice that can be heard all the way to Copenhagen" that it's time for the city to adopt a living-wage law for publicly subsidized development projects."

And the ultimate winners in our view, were the members of the Bronx council delegation (and its borough jefe Ruben Diaz). They disproved all of the naysayers and ridiculers who never thought that they could stand together on principle-against the city's richest man and his real estate lackey.