Friday, September 04, 2009

Ruben Reads Related the Riot Act

The Bronx News Network is reporting that Bronx BP, Ruben Diaz Jr., has come out against the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory-and digs at former BP Carrion at the same time:

"We just got a press release from Borough President Ruben Diaz announcing that the will recommend a "no" vote to the City Planning Commission on the Kingsbridge Armory project. His chief reason for giving the thumbs down is that the city's chosen developer, the Related Companies, has not yet agreed to the terms of a community benefits agreement...Diaz's decision represents a monumental sea change compared with his predecessor, Adolfo Carrion, Jr., who was widely criticized for minimizing community involvement in the Gateway Mall and Yankee Stadium negotiations and exacting meager community benefits from developers and the city in return for supporting those projects."

Indeed it does represent a sharp shift from the craven Carrion whose actions around the Gateway project were nothing less than shameful. But, the Carrion issue aside, what does the Diaz decision mean for this project? As BNN reminds us: "Now the focus shifts to Related and the City Council. Will Related negotiate? Will Council members support the project if they don't? This issue is particularly likely to loom large in the Council primaries in the 11th and 14th Districts, where Oliver Koppell and Maria Baez will cast important votes that are sure to guide others from around the borough and the rest of the city."

Of course, the key issues are the supermarket exclusion and a living wage provision. Here's part of the BP's press release on these topics: "Several weeks ago, Borough President Diaz’s office submitted a draft community benefits agreement to the developer in hopes of negotiating the terms of that document with the Related Companies in advance of the borough president’s submission to the City Planning Commission. That document includes provisions concerning a living wage policy, first source and local hiring, various economic development initiatives, labor peace and the ability of employees at the retail development to unionize...The draft community benefits agreement also calls for a supermarket or big-box warehouse club to be excluded from the development."

So the gauntlet has been laid down, and the question remaining to be answered is how will the BP's position be transposed in the City Council negotiations surrounding the Armory. One thing that is clear, however, the days of the total appeasement of Related may soon be over. We expect that Bill Thompson will jump all over this-and the City Planning hearing on the 9th should provoke some fireworks.