Monday, January 23, 2006

Gateway Hearing and BJ's

The hearing of the Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee on the Gateway Mall was held today and we'll comment more fully on what transpired tomorrow. What was clear, however, was that BJ's was, as Pat Purcell said in today's NY Sun, "The 800-pound gorilla in the room."

Which brings us to the theme of Dave Lombino's story this morning: Does the Council have the authority to block a project based on the tenants in the development? Strictly speaking it does not. This is, though, a strict and narrow construction of the Council's purview.

When our friend Joel Rivera says that, "Hopefully, they will bring in stores that are friendly to the consumers and friendly to the people that work there," he is unnecessarily restricting his and his colleagues review powers. Why, then, does it matter that the Gateway project will bring "5,000" jobs to the Bronx? This has nothing to do with CEQR.

Let's get real. This is an economic development project and it is being sold as one. As such, it deserves to be analyzed in this fashion. The kind of tenants coming in, their labor practices, their impact on other Bronx businesses, are all part of the mix. The fact that one of the mall's anchor tenants may effectively bar, because of its membership and food stamp policies, local poor consumers from its store is germane to the entire project's merit.

And if you just want one CEQR rationale to say no to this fiasco than how about the fact that the liars for hire who did the economic impact analysis want the council to believe that the largest food store in Bronx history will not hurt one supermarket in the three mile trade area. According to this "analysis,"the only people coming to a BJ's are probably those Bronxites who don't shop the local markets because they have been fasting for the past ten years or so.