Tuesday, August 25, 2009

More Armory Scuttlebutt

The NY Daily News also weighs in on the decision by Bronx BP Diaz to delay his ruling on the fate of the Kingsbridge Armory proposal: "Redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory has taken more than a decade so far, but it will have to wait up to two more weeks before moving forward toward approval. Borough President Ruben Diaz was expected to announce his decision yesterday, 30 working days after Community Board 7 voted on the plan under the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. But he decided to delay his decision past the deadline to allow more time to meet with concerned parties and negotiate a community-benefits agreement with the developer, the Related Cos."

So far, only one thing is definite-no one in the Bronx political power structure wants any part of a supermarket in the Armory-and the News reiterates the attempted bait and switch by the developer that has generated considerable ire in the borough: "Meanwhile, Diaz will be leading negotiations with Related on the final terms of the CBA. Last week, he announced that his meetings with community stakeholders had produced a list of principles to form the basis of a CBA. The only provision made public was a demand that Related not include a supermarket in the retail mix. The inclusion of a 60,000-square-foot supermarket in the project's environmental impact study sparked controversy because the armory is directly across the street from an existing supermarket, and the city's original request for proposals specifically sought to avoid projects that would compete with the existing local businesses."

So, with the two week delay, the coalition of local businesses and concerned community residents have additional time to organize against the mayor's favorite son developer-something that will be done; culminating in a large march on the Armory in two weeks. And the interim gives the coalition time to gather even more signatures: "When the city selected Related as the winning bidder last year, the developer's proposal made no mention of a supermarket. The supermarket ban also has the support of all six members of the Bronx City Council delegation, which sent a letter pushing this issue to Mayor Bloomberg, along with 10,000 petition signatures from neighborhood residents opposed to bringing big-box stores or a supermarket into the armory."

We'll let the News slide for reducing the Bronx council delegation by one member; but the handwriting is certainly becoming quite legible on the wall-either Related publicly agrees to remove the supermarket, or risks the loss of the entire project. And we still haven't seen what the developer will do on the nettlesome living wage initiative that KARA and the BP both are pushing hard.

In our view, the building of box stores in the Armory-of whatever stripe-creates an undue pressure on neighborhood commerce. If the developer can't agree on providing a living wage, than the development simply isn't worth doing-especially when small retailers are reeling. So, in some sense, the die is being cast here, and the fate of the Armory, while still up in the air, is becoming precarious because the city chose a developer that hasn't been accustomed to compromise. We'll see if the Bronx resistance changes its mindset.