Friday, October 09, 2009

The Way the Cookie Crumbles

Stella D'Oro has closed its doors for the last time in the Bronx, without Mike Bloomberg either saying a word or lifting a finger to help-a symbol of the mayor's failed economic policies for the past eight years: "The famous Bronx maker of Italian cookies and breadsticks closed its gates as the 3 p.m. shift walked out, leaving nearly 150 plant workers jobless. "I'm very sad," said Mike Filippou, 45, a mechanic at the plant for 14 years. "After all these years, it's finally closing." "Many people didn't believe it," said George Kahssay, 51, a floor manager. "Some had a little hope that it might continue, that they must be crazy to close it."

For 78 years this factory hasa provided jobs and a distinctive bakery product for New York and the nation-and the equity firm that took it over only to gut and shut the facility-glomming hundreds of thousands of city tax dollars in the process: "The news came as the rest of the workers rallied on the steps of City Hall, demanding the city go to court to stall the plant's sale to a North Carolina-based snack food maker, Lance Inc. The workers said the factory's owner, Connecticut-based private equity firm Brynwood Partners, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in city tax abatements to upgrade machinery since buying the plant from Kraft in 2006. Now they say the city should force Brynwood to either return the money or keep the machinery, due to be moved to a nonunion Lance factory in Ashland, Ohio. "That's taxpayer dollars from New Yorkers that is now going to be moved to Ohio," said Councilman Tony Avella (D-Queens). "That is an absolute disgrace and shame on the City of New York for allowing this to happen."

Mike Bloomberg told reporters yesterday that he is shocked and saddened by the move, oh wait, Mike Bloomberg was speechless-saying nothing about the theft of tax money, and probably too devastated by the job loss even to talk. But perhaps, Brynwood, being an investment firm is considered sacrosanct and above reproach from its kindred spirit down at city hall.

But to be fair, it's not possible to get the city's money back: "The city Finance Department has already said it will not attempt to recover the money. A department spokesman said there is no "clawback" provision in the abatement program. Brynwood received $425,399.26 in tax abatements since purchasing the company from Kraft."

Wow, this was a great deal! No protections for the tax payers-and the 150 bakery workers get the "clawback" but not the city treasury. In all likelihood, what this means is that there is a box store waiting to replace the factory on the side of the Major Deegan-another example of how the five borough economic plan, when it actually does manage to create jobs, replaces union workers with low paying poverty level jobs.

So the Stell D'Oro demise is emblematic of a failed set of economic development policies that have sacrificed the working class on the altar of equity capital and large real estate aggrandizement. All of which makes mockery of the concept of Mike Bloomberg as some sort of economic saviour-a needed rescuer for the city in its current job loss travails.