Thursday, October 22, 2009

Armory PlanTrashed

The Riverdale Press weighs in on the Kingsbridge Armory plan-and doesn't like what it sees so far: "The Kingsbridge Armory has taken another crucial step toward becoming a mall. What a relief. The City Planning Commission has voted 8 to 4 to allow the private development project, which will be completed with massive public help, to proceed. Soon more jobs flipping burgers for starvation wages will be available to people who will be unable to afford to take them. What more can the Bronx ask for?"

Apparently, a great deal more: "In fact, the people of Kingsbridge Heights, labor unions and many elected representatives have asked for considerably more. They’ve asked for money to help build schools. They’ve asked for the jobs that will be created inside the enormous near-centuryold structure to pay enough to become the first rung on a ladder out of poverty, rather than another endless plateau of poverty and disenfranchisement."

But, according to the RP-as it was with the BTM-so far Related's got the goldmine, and the community the shaft: "The company gets to buy a massive, historic structure of 600,000 cavernous square feet, under a roof that stretches to the sky, for $5 million. Not a bad deal considering the fact that a 2,000-square foot apartment on 3rd Avenue in Manhattan can go for about the same price. It’s true that the space isn’t doing much right now, and the city can certainly use this drop in the bucket during tight economic times. Still, it’s hard to buy the idea that the economic stimulus provided by yet another mall (have we already forgotten the brand-spanking new Gateway Center?) will really help the community turn much of a profit, let alone the city as a whole. Related is being given massive tax incentives as well as the sweetheart pricing as an added enticement to make a large profit in Kingsbridge Heights. That means that the city won’t get much back, at least directly, from the mall it (meaning us) will help to subsidize."

No it won't-and this epitomizes the Bloomberg economic development strategy; a cornucopia for the special interests (of which Related is more equal than others), and crumbs for the communities: "Related says that if it is forced to provide a better deal for Kingsbridge Heights, including a guarantee that people who work inside will get paid a fair wage, it will have to scrap its entire plan. If that’s a threat, it’s unclear whom it would hurt. It is now looking like the people of the Northwest Bronx — even those the mall will employ — will end up standing on the outside. They will be unable to buy many of the things they will sell as clerks or keep track of as stockroom employees. Who will be making patties one minute and buying a $20 candle the next?
Who needs another place to buy a $20 candle in the first place?"

And the local paper has some advice for the local council member: "Today is the day to ask Oliver Koppell to help persuade other members of the City Council to vote no on this development unless there are specific guarantees to the people of the borough. Guarantees that there will be something in it for them — for us — other than bad jobs and luxuries far too many are unable to afford."

We'll give Bronx BP Ruben Diaz the last word on this idea: " People are starting to realize that this is something that has to happen citywide. We need to shift the paradigm. We want development. We want corporate America to make their money -- but in partnership with the people."