Friday, May 29, 2009

The Immaculate Deception

As we have posted, the proposal to develop the Kingsbridge Armory includes a 60,000sq. ft. supermarket that, according to the developer, "...will not hurt any of the existing markets...It is expected that a grocery use at that the project site would attract sales largely from the under served portion of the Primary Trade Area...A grocery store use at the project site also could capture substantial sales from portions of the Bronx outside of the Primary Trade Area, most notably residents east of Baychester Road/Interstate 678 where there is currently consumer outflow to Southern Westchester County."

So the Associated Supermarket across the street will be unharmed by the tax subsidized competitor? Only in Related World could this be said with anything approaching a straight face. But there is one thing that must be highlighted in this effort to deceive: the fact that the original RFP for the site had insisted that, "Proposed commercial and retail uses must expand and enhance the current mix of retail offerings in the area, and endeavor to not duplicate or compete with the existing retail uses." (p.6)

One thing that can be said in Related's defense-they go about doing things effortlessly, so their disregard for the parameters of the RFP shouldn't be a shock to anyone's sensibility (And no one would sit J. Masyr next to the "Pushka"). But the supermarket designation insures that there will be a battle royal over this application; and Morty and Billy Sloan are prepared to aggressively make their case.

The Sloans are particularly aggrieved considering the fact that Related is getting around $13 million in tax subsidies-while the Sloans have operated in their location without any public funds for over fifty years. In addition, the Sloan's company is a huge economic engine to the entire Kingsbridge community, generating a weekly $390,000 payroll for the area. This is in addition to the $375,000 that the company pays in city and state corporation taxes-a sum that has been consistent for decades (Not to mention the $350,000-$400,000 in real estate taxes they pay for the two contiguous markets).

So a tax subsidized competitor is asking for a special dispensation-along with amnesia over the RFP-in order to put local stores at risk. And it's not only the Sloans. The Perez family has also been operating a C-Town supermarket in the neighborhood for years; and there are at least six other, mostly minority, store owners in the line of fire as well.

All of which means that we will be in for a battle royal; and we haven't even touched on the RWDSU led effort to insure that a living wage accompanies any development that is lavishly supported by the city's strapped tax payers-an effort that is encompassed in pending legislation up in Albany. As the TU reports: "A measure currently under consideration in the Legislature would require companies receiving taxpayer-funded subsidies to provide greater detail about their plans to pay prevailing wages, consult with regional labor organizations, and whenever possible hire local workers."

So the Armory becomes ground zero in, not only a neighborhood store fight, but a major union battle as well; which doesn't bode well for Related's effort to get approval for its project. But perhaps the company, and its president Jeff Blau, feel they have an ace up their sleeve. Recently, as the Observer reported, Mike Bloomberg took time out from his busy schedule-at least when he isn't golfing in Bermuda-to make a call for the beleaguered Blau who wasn't getting any love from the co-op board where he wanted to domicile. How many of us could get the mayor to make such a call-especially one who claims that he isn't beholden to any special interests?

But, ace in the hole or not, Related's in for a bruising here-much like the one they faced over on Brush Avenue when they sought to put a BJ's on the site (now a gorgeous Home Depot occupies the land). The electeds are lining up here, and Bloomberg's favorite real estate company may have to scale things back or, alternatively, simply take a beating.