Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Same Old Tricks

The Related Company knows all about timing. As the NY Daily News reports today, local Community Board #7 is riled about the certification of the Kingsbridge Armory project that forces the local board to hold an emergency meeting in the summer: "Community Board 7 now has until July 27, under the Uniform Land Use Review Process, to vote on the $310 million proposal from The Related Cos. "We had initially asked that the ULURP certification be delayed," said Gregory Faulkner, chairman of Board 7, which, like all community boards, normally goes on hiatus in the summer. Faulkner expects to hold an emergency meeting of the full board in July after a public hearing he hopes to schedule for the end of June."

For its part Related acts as if this is all just a coincidence: "Related Cos. lawyer Jesse Masyr denied timing the start of the process with the board's hiatus as a way to limit its input, saying that the complexity of the multiagency process makes the timing impossible to game." Yet we know that the mayor's people wanted to make sure that the development would be fully reviewed and disposed of before the end of the calendar year-insuring that the current council had the final say over the matter. This reflects their close relationship with the current speaker, Chris Quinn, whose tenure ends at the end of this term, and is subject to a new vote of the council next January.

All of which makes the comments of Related's lawyer, well, shall we say disingenuous. As the News points out: "Masyr gave the same reasoning several years ago when the land-use process for another massive Related project, the Gateway Center mall, started just as Community Board 4 began its summer hiatus in 2005." The reality is, that the certification of any application, and moreover its timing, is fully discretionary. Anything said that implies simple chance is sheer nonsense. So as far as we're concerned, par for the course for Related.

So, Related starts this process with a number of questions-and the timing is only a relatively minor one indeed. The reliability of its EIS data is is on severely shaky ground; not to mention the fact that Related has the habit of replying falsely to the city's requests for proposals-saying one thing, but actually proposing to do something quite different when the actual development is crafted. In the application to develop the Armory, for instance, there was no mention of a 60,000 sq. ft. supermarket that now appears to be a centerpiece to the company's plan. This kind of bait and switch is a staple of consumer fraud bureau's all over the country.

And the supermarket will be a centerpiece of this dispute-much as Wal-Mart was in Vornado's development in Rego Park. The developer there was forced to jettison the Walmonster if it wanted to see overall success for the entire project. We anticipate a similar fate for the "neighborhood supermarket" at the Armory. Any development that is so heavily subsidized should not be a vehicle for the demise of hard working local businesses that have never gotten a dime from the city: "Board 7's Land Use Committee will discuss Related's proposal at its meeting tomorrow night, and one point of contention is likely to be plans for a 60,000-square-foot supermarket mentioned in Related's draft environmental impact statement. The owners of a Morton Williams supermarket just across the street say a supermarket at the Armory would be unfair competition subsidized by taxpayers."

And so, we enter this fight aware that the proffered words of the developer need to be taken with more than just a grain of salt. Any and all agreements must be made contractually binding. And the end result here must adhere to the principles that, KARA. the local community coalition, has laid out: no supermarket, and good living wage jobs that don't undermine the wage scales of contiguous union employers. This is going to be one big battle for the small businesses and workers of the Bronx!