Thursday, December 17, 2009


According to Daily Politics, the mayor is a man of his word-and has vetoed the Kingsbridge Armory rejection, saying: "In disapproving the Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment project, the council unraveled more than three years of collaborative planning with community leaders and negated an opportunity to generate more than $300 million in private investment, and2,200 jobs in the Bronx..."

Alas, the "more than three years of planning" was itself fatally flawed by the selection of the least community friendly developer in the city to spearhead the redevelopment project-and Related lived up to its reputation by ignoring and/or humoring the community coalition throughout the land use process.

The mayor goes on to argue that the nexus of the planning process was the creation of the Kingsbridge Armory Task Force: "Working together, the members of this group gave careful consideration to the needs and preferences of the Bronx communities surrounding the long vacant armory site." Really?

If so, we wonder how the Related plan could have emerged as it did-so disconnected from those "needs and interests" that the mayor alludes to? But the mayor goes on to say that the RFP eventually issued by the city reflected this hard work; but, if so, it was promptly ignored by the city's designee.

And what would a statement of this kind by without the usual, "the customers are all leaving" argument. As the mayor alleges: "The proposal would also create a much needed economic engine for the Bronx, where residents disproportionately travel elsewhere to shop. Each year the Bronx loses more than 40% of potential retail sales to locations outside the borough, which translates to $2.8 billion in spending..."

And you didn't know there was that much money in the Bronx? But seriously, this is part of the typical kind of immaculate deception that the EDC crowd always try to pull-assuming that the building of local malls will stem the exodus, but will have no net effect on existing retail businesses. This isn't economic analysis, it's a simple scam in support of those looking to translate tax dollars into a lucrative mall deal for themselves.

And can we at least mention the fact that the city itself is a co-conspirator in the exodus? After all, it continues to not only pursue and maintain NYC's high tax, onerous regulatory environment, but at the same time raises the sales tax in the middle of the worst recession in over 60 years. And the consumers naturally vote with their feet.

The reality is that the tax subsidized malling will cannibalize existing neighborhood stores that are on life supports as it is-reducing employment and destroying the dreams of countless numbers of struggling entrepreneurs. But why should Mike Bloomberg care about these folks, none of whom will ever be caught hobnobbing with the mayor at one of the city's private clubs that he frequents?

And given the callous disregard shown for small retailers, the mayor's referencing of the recession is particularly bad form: "Given the continued negative economic impacts of the national recession, including high unemployment and a scaling back of job creating development, the Kingsbridge Armory plan came at a particularly important moment...Disapproval of the plan serves as a particularly untimely setback to the fulfillment of these goals."

But give Mayor Mike credit-doubling down on his bad economic bet by continuing with an economic development plan that has devastated neighborhood businesses all over the city, while at the same time enriching a few real estate favored sons. He remains tone deaf to these local interests; Why else would he eliminate all of the street parking along the length of Fordham Road, one of the city's most vibrant retail corridors?

Mike does end with a flourish though-castigating the council for failure to address land use criteria in its rejection of the shopping center: "The public review of the proposal conducted under the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure did not identify any land use impacts or implications that warranted Council disapproval...There was thus no land use or environmental justification for the Council action."

This statement requires true chutzpah on the mayor's part. The "review" he refers to, involves the hiring of an in-their-pocket consultant whose "findings" never raise any serious environmental questions-that's why they are hired in the first place. And the city for its part, simply turns its head the other way, does no independent review of the data generated, and rubber stamps the self interested conclusions as if they were unassailable. The entire process is a joke-and the fix is in from the beginning-just see what we've said about the Willets Point traffic hide and sneak.

So we go back to the Council on Monday for the hoped for override. But the debate about the meaning of all of this will continue long after the current council heads out for its well deserved Christmas vacation.