Thursday, January 05, 2006

Further Observations On BJ's and the BTM

One of the things we hadn't commented on in today's NY Sun article was the comments of Related's Glenn Goldstein on the decision by Judge Cahn supporting the eviction of the market merchants; "It means that with the approval of the City Council, the blighted, dilapidated and unproductive facility will be transformed into the Gateway Center at Bronx Terminal Market-a job generating, community-serving retail center."

There are number of things in that statement that cry out for deconstruction. The first that comes to mind is Uptown Glenn's description of the current market as "unproductive." According to whom? Is this the same market where 23 food wholesalers were doing $500 million a year in business and employing over 600 workers?

As far as blighted and dilapidated are concerned we'll give him that, but at the same time isn't that condition the fault of Related's new partner, the slumlord named Buntzman? In fact nowhere but in the world of Steve Ross and Deputy Dan could an acknowledged slumlord (at least according to the city's own court papers) be rewarded for his negligence while his victims are severly punished.

Then we come to the catchy "community-serving retail center" phrase. The big unanswered question here is: Whose community? We do know, for instance, that the BTM merchants were actually serving the surrounding neighborhoods and employing folks who lived in these communities. Will Gateway do the same? In this regard we need to take Glenn's and Adolfo Carrion's word since no accountable deverlopment analysis has ever been done on the project.

Some wildly unsupported job claims have been put forth but given the inadequacy of the socio-economic impact analysis done for the project we don't really have a good handle, not only on how many jobs will be gained, but how many will be lost as a result of the influx of five box stores. In addition, there is also the question of the quality of the jobs gained versus those that are lost. This gets into the whole union issue dealing with health and pension benefits.

Which brings us to the BJ's issue and how it relates to "community-centered retail development." The harsh truth is that BJ's, since it doesn't accept food stamps or WIC and it charges customers a $40 yearly membership fee, is basically off-limits to a great majority of those low-income residents living in and around the BTM site.

In essence, The Gateway Mall will be bringing a great deal of unwelcome environmental and economic impacts to the community and these need to be weighed agains all of the purported benefites. This is precisely the kind of analysis that has not been done for this development and underscores the compelling neeed for overhualing the ULURP process.

So when Council member Arroyo told the Daily News that she would tentatively support a BJ's discount store because her concern was for "the mother looking to feed her three children," she probably didn't realize the mother she was so worried about was never going to be a BJ's shopper.