Tuesday, October 13, 2009

UnRelated Data

You really got to hand it to Ruben Diaz, the Bronx BP has lit into the phony traffic analysis conducted by the developer of the Kingsbride Armory-and it's about time that someone dramatized Related's slip shod attention to the impacts its projects will have on local neighborhoods. As the NY Daily News reports: "Last month, Diaz recommended that the city reject Related's proposal unless the developer signed a binding community benefits agreement, taking up the cause of local activists demanding a living wage and protections for local businesses. Opponents took aim at the draft environmental impact study provided by Related, which they claimed underestimated traffic and parking congestion as well as the impact on existing local businesses, and Diaz has pressed those points with the city and the developer. "This is not the first time the city and its consultants have skirted proper analysis on major development projects it promotes," said Diaz. "Whether this is intentional or indolent, it is nonetheless disturbing."

The fact is that this is a less than ideal site for such a large retail use-and the lack of inside and outside parking would inundate this neighborhood: "Diaz also found fault with Related's assumption that the 330 cars expected to overflow from the underground parking garage on Saturday afternoons would be able to find street parking in the already congested neighborhood. Related's answer - that the lack of parking would likely result in more shoppers opting to take public transport - did not satisfy Diaz either, who expects parking issues "will be a significant burden to the community."

Parking is woefully inadequate and the number of spaces is far less than what Related supplies for its customers over at Gateway in East New York. All of which doesn't address the fact that the supermarket that is still included in the development plan would increase by 20% the number of vehicles attracted to the facility-a fact that is ignored by the developer, and serves as a further reason why this entire environmental review is shoddy.

And speaking of the supermarket, our allies over at the National Supermarket Association informed us that Mayor Bloomberg had met with them last month in Corona and, at the time, personally assured the group-made up of mostly Dominican owners of independent supermarkets-that there would be no supermarket included at the armory. If this is true, and we have no reason to doubt the word of those who attended the gathering, than the mayor has little time between now and the CPC vote next week, to live up to his promise.

In our meeting last week with Deputy Mayor Lieber Nelson Eusebio, NSA's director, conveyed the Bloomberg promise, and the NSA is awaiting a response. It is rare for the mayor to make this kind of personal commitment to a small business group, so his failure to live up to the promise would be a serious breach towards a group that represents a constituency-Hispanic immigrants-he has been actively courting.

The dust-up over traffic and the supermarket, underscores the volatility of the Kingsbridge project. It appears more and more likely, however, that it will be the city council-and not the mayor-that will be forced to hash out the details of any deal that excludes a food store and promotes a living wage-something that the Bronx delegation appears eager to do, even if the mayor won't.