Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Kingsbridge Too Far?

The NY Daily News has also weighed in on Monday's CPC vote on the application to develop the Kingsbridge Armory: "Opponents of the developer's plans for the Kingsbridge Armory are bringing out the big guns for the final battle as the proposal moves to the City Council.
In a rare split vote that suggests growing opposition, the City Planning Commission approved on Monday a proposal by The Related Companies to turn the vast armory into a shopping mall. It voted 8 to 4 with one abstention. Commissioners representing the borough presidents of the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as the public advocate's representative, all voted against the project."

So, with the issue of a supermarket and a living wage still unresolved, the measure now goes to the City Council's Zoning and Franchises Committee: "The project's first stop in the Council will be the Zoning and Franchise subcommittee chaired by Councilman Tony Avella (D-Queens), who said yesterday the split commission vote signals significant opposition to the current proposal. "There are a lot of issues to be resolved," Avella said."

There are nine votes on the subcommittee, and if the application fails to get a five vote majority, it could be defeated at that point-exactly as the Related effort to put a BJs on Brush Avenue was four years ago. At that time, Related withdrew its proposal when it determined that there wasn't enough support for the store at the council.

Which very well could happen again if the growing labor opposition is any indication: "A letter from union leaders to all Council members, urges them to demand Related accept a community benefits agreement drawn up by Diaz that requires a living wage. The letter was signed by the heads of Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, SEIU Local 1199, the United Federation of Teachers, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees DC 37, and the Hotel & Motel Trades Council. Collectively, these unions represent 750,000 workers in the city. In a separate letter, Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, also wrote to Council members advocating a living wage requirement. LaBarbera's group represents 100,000 members."

Still, much work needs to be done-and the council's eventually position remains unclear since there is so much uncertainty in the body as a result of attrition and the influx of considerable new blood: "The Council can vote to reject the proposal, approve it as is, or approve it with certain conditions attached, such as a living wage requirement or mandatory community benefits agreement. Opponents may have to wrangle a super-majority of Council votes to block the project, since Mayor Bloomberg - who has expressed support for the plan - can overturn a rejection by a simple majority. The Council would need a two-thirds vote to override the mayor's veto."

However, if there is enough support garnered for excluding a supermarket and including a living wage provision, than the formal need for a super majority is just that-a formality, Because the legislature, once it makes a decision, will insure that the decision is upheld-and leadership will be loathe to to allow the mayor to overrode its wishes at a time when the speaker's position will soon be decided for another four years.

But opponents have much work to do before they even reach that point-and in this business, nothing is written in stone, Still, the goals are within reach, and the next 50 days will tell the tale.


As Crain's Insider is reporting: " The Central Labor Council has passed a resolution asking City Council members to demand living-wage jobs at a redeveloped Kingsbridge Armory, joining more than half a dozen other labor organizations that have made similar calls." This puts even more heat on the council, which will probably have its first hearing the second week in November.