Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Community Armors Itself

As the Crain's Insider reports this morning, a coalition of community groups is gearing up to insure that a strong-community-based-benefits agreement is hammered out as part of the land use application for the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory: "A day after the Bloomberg administration officially selected The Related Companies to redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx, a coalition of 20 groups said yesterday that it would press the firm for a community benefits agreement. The Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance says it will not support the plan unless the agreement includes guarantees of union construction jobs, permanent living-wage retail jobs, and community space."

This shapes up to be a major battle since the Related Company is not known for its rapport with local communities-relying instead on cultivating support among Bronx electeds instead. And the community's biggest concern is about jobs, and not just any kind of jobs. As the NY Times pointed out yesterday: "“We have real needs here, and this building is an asset in the community that has not been used,” said Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter, a resident of the area for 25 years who supports the plan...“They have to provide jobs that pay, not low-paying jobs that continue the cycle of poverty,” said Father Joseph Girone of St. Nicholas of Tolentine Roman Catholic Church, which is a few blocks from the armory."

So expect that this will be an arduous process, one that will require vigilance so that the developer doesn't renege on its promises surrounding the tenanting of the facility-big box stores are an anathema to the community, and would cause gridlock in the Kingsbridge Road/Jerome Avenue corridor: "The retailers have not yet been chosen. Negotiations are continuing, which call for Related to buy the building, retain the exterior and rebuild the interior. The plan requires approval by the City Council, which officials said probably would not be granted until next year."

Yet it appears that EDC finally may have a clue about the importance of community support.
As the Times indicates, EDC President Seth Pinsky supports the local input: “The key to the success this time around was that from the very beginning of the process we’ve involved the local community,” Mr. Pinsky said." Vigilance is important here, because much can go wrong.