Friday, June 19, 2009

Morton Willams to the Defense

The following is a guest post by Morton Sloan and Avi Kaner, president and vice president of Morton Williams Supermarkets.

Morton Williams Supermarkets Defends Itself – A David vs. Goliath Story

The Village Voice recently ran a story based on a lobbying proposal that was written to Morton Williams Supermarkets. This unexecuted private proposal outlined the kind of grass roots lobbying and community organizing strategy needed to protect Morton Williams Supermarkets from an unfair attack by the Related Company, a multi-billion dollar developer subsidized by City and State government.

The story here is how the Related Company is using its favored nation status with the current administration, as well as financial subsidies, to destroy local tax-paying businesses like ours that have been loyal to the Bronx. Related’s plans for such a retail use would violate the terms of the city’s RFP which stated “proposed commercial and retail uses must expand and enhance the current mix of retail offerings in the area, and endeavor to not duplicate or directly compete with the existing retail uses.”

Suddenly, Related announced its intention to disregard this RFP requirement. Instead Related plans a mammoth 60,000 square foot supermarket in the armory that would have a catastrophic impact on Morton Williams Supermarkets and our company-wide hiring office across the street. Morton Williams is a good union employer that has been headquartered in the Kingsbridge community for over fifty years, employing over 450 Kingsbridge area residents with full-time union jobs, health care, and other benefits. Morton Williams Supermarkets and its workers have every right to defend ourselves against a billionaire developer that has been afforded special treatment in the form of rich subsidies because of his ties to people in power.

According to Morton Sloan, President of Morton Williams Supermarkets, “The Related Company has spent millions of dollars on lobbyists; lawyers, and consultants to advance its multi-billion dollar real estate portfolio. We are trying to fight back in the little way we can. This is a David vs. Goliath story.” Regarding the tens of millions of dollars of government subsidies and tax breaks to the Related Company, Morton Sloan states, “to destroy our business with government subsidies is simply an outrage. The fact that taxes paid by businesses like Morton Williams will be used to subsidize a giant retail competitor magnifies the unfairness.”

Avi Kaner, VP of Morton Williams Supermarkets, explains that, “given our history, investment and commitment no one should be surprised that we are opposed to the use of the Kingsbridge armory for supermarket/warehouse club use.” He continues, “it would, without a doubt, represent a lethal blow to our two Bronx stores which would positively close as a result. It will also be a lethal blow against the neighborhood with the eventual elimination of many hundreds of Morton Williams union jobs as our hiring and corporate office will be forced to move to a location outside of the Bronx.”

Morton Williams, as well as its many competitors, have hired new immigrants and neighborhood residents for decades – all without a penny of subsidies and tax incentives. We welcome fair competition, but will fight unfair massive government-subsidized competition to the best of our abilities. To this date, The Mayor’s office has not responded to a letter expressing our concerns.