Thursday, August 13, 2009

Related To Whom?

A developer of a different mall in Kingsbridge has a legitimate complaint-and people should be paying attention to the Cerruzzi Holdings folks when they talk about the sweetheart deal that the city gave to Related to build its mall at the Kingsbridge Armory: "The developer seeking to make a mall out of a city-owned Kingsbridge parking lot wants to renegotiate the price with the city in part because The Related Companies got such a good deal for the Kingsbridge Armory, according to a source briefed by a developer’s representative."

But before the city begins discounting all of its property deals, maybe it needs to examine-or, perhaps, Bill Thompson should examine-just how it is that the Related Company gets to be treated so deferentially: "Related will pay $5 million for the landmark 600,000-square-foot Kingsbridge Armory, if what is now a preliminary deal is approved. It will also receive about $20 million in tax breaks. Related has told the city it estimates the Armory will cost nearly $324 million to redevelop."

Or, as Yogi Berra once said, "It's déjà vu all over again." This theft of city property is a repeat of the sweetheart deal that the city, courtesy of Dan Doctoroff, gave to Related to build the Gateway Mall-property that to this day is paying the city less in rent than the 21 ousted wholesale merchants were forking over; up until the day that they were evicted to make room for giant retailers who are currently sucking the life blood out of the surrounding neighborhood shopping districts.

In our view, it's always a bad idea to subsidize mega retail-but especially so when the neighborhoods are under siege and store closings are as rampant as they are today. As we have said before, retail jobs in new malls are simply cannibalized from existing stores-whose taxes are being used to subsidize the mall developers. Invariably, these new jobs are at the lowest rung of the ladder and the subsidies make little economic sense.

What does make sense, and the Ceruzzi complaint dramatizes this, is the pattern of subsidies that have been proffered to one favored developer-and the sense made is that it underscores the kind of patricianage that the Bloomberg administration has exhibited for eight years; highlighting how corruption doesn't have to be manifested in blatant bribery, but can be seen in how old boys networks are used.

Further, it is also likely that Related, like the favored pigs at the city trough that they are, will be back for more tax payer dollars when they find that it is difficult to attract all of the national retailers that they want in the Armory. The additional subsidies-like those that were used by Related at Bradhurst-will be used to lower the rent for big chains, creating even greater inequities, and further endangering struggling local stores.

So the city should tell Ceruzzi to take a hike if it can't afford to develop their parking lot in Kingsbridge. However, the city council should be examining the Armory deal with a fine tooth comb; and if it includes a supermarket and dead end retail jobs, why then it should say that we have already been generous to Related to a fault; and any additional subsidies should come directly from Bloomberg's and Doctoroff's pockets. The taxpayers have been bled enough by this gang of thieves.