Sunday, January 08, 2006

BJ's Redlines the South Bronx

It's no wonder that the folks at Related, along with their paid acolytes, want to keep the fact that the developer has a signed lease for the BTM development with the BJ's Wholesale Club. Anyone would given the business model that the club store implements. You see, when the dust settles, if BJ's is allowed to tenant the new Gateway Mall a large proportion (probably over 50%) of the neighborhood residents in the area surrounding the BTM will be effectively redlined from using the store.

Why is this? Well the store has a number of business practices that, because of the income levels of the neighborhood, would make BJ's inaccessible to the local residents.The first is the required $40 membership fee. This is, after all, a community that is at least 25% below the city wide income medium with income levels hovering at around $26,000 a year. A great many residents are on public assistance and also receive food stamps, putting the $40 entry fee out of reach.

But please don't take our word for it. Just take a cyber-ride over to the EIS done for Related as part of the current ULURP application. In the section on the socio-economic impact of the Gateway project our friends over at AKRF dot the "I's" and cross the "T's" of our point.

On page 3-82, in a discussion of what the impact of a $60 million dollar a year food business would have on local supermarkets, and of course attempting to minimize this impact, AKRF makes the following argument under the heading-"Cost of Membership Will Discourage Some From Shopping at a Wholesale Club"
Households are required to purchase a wholesale club membership club card in order to
in order to shop at the store. The cost of a membership card at a wholesale club is typically $40 per household. This may serve as a barrier...

The consultants, however, don't stop there. They also point out that the local neighborhood has probably the lowest car ownership in the city and the lack of a car will make it less likely that the neighborhood stores would lose their business to the BJ's and other stores in the mall. Putting aside for the moment our disagreement with another major premise of this argument, it remains quite clear that a membership fee and lack of vehicle access will mean that, for large numbers of local residents BJ's will be out of reach.

The redlining, though, doesn't stop here. What the consultants don't mention is the fact that BJ's doesn't accept food stamps and WIC, so that even if they could find some way to cobble together the $40 membership fee and hitch a ride over to the mall they would still find themselves shut out of the store.

What the residents would have access to, however, is the tens of thousands of additional car and truck trips that the mall would generate. So here in "asthma alley" local folks are being offered a store that they will not be welcome in while being asked to accept the negative environmental impacts that these surrounding neighborhoods cannot afford. Does this sound fair?