Thursday, November 19, 2009

Further Thoughts on Kingsbridge and Willets Point

Earlier we pointed out that the city-eager to cut a deal and get city council approval-had agreed last year to provide living wage jobs at the proposed Willets Point development. This precedent totally undercuts the Deputy Mayor Lieber's current position on the Armory-the same deputy mayor, by the way, that crafted the labor settlement last year.

But what really struck us was the mayor's comments quoted in the Errol Louis column: "The city is not in the business of guaranteeing people's wages, and in private development, we shouldn't be," said Bloomberg." Ah, the sanctity of the private sector is discovered by the mayor-kind of like some lost ancient relic. Because, as we have seen so dramatically in Willets Point, Mike Bloomberg is willing to remove 225 of such private businesses in order to make way for Bloomburgh.

And pay all the workers a living wage on top of it! It goes to demonstrate just how class divided the mayor's administration really is. You see, Mike will stand up four square for private business-but only it appears if it is the right kind. The business owners at the Iron Triangle don't have the same cachet as Related's president Jeff Blau (despite the fact that he can't get into a Fifth Avenue Co-op even with the mayor personally calling the co-op board).

Which brings us to the Willets Point situation-and a fascinating story in Realclearpolitics this morning on New London. It seems that the Fort Trumball neighborhood that was the subject of the eminent domain fiasco up there, was also the home of auto body shops-just like at the Point: "New London had wanted to replace the area's weathered cottages and auto-body shops with a cityscape more amenable to the corporate types at the new Pfizer research park. The city bought some of the properties and seized those whose owners refused to sell."

And the end result? "New London remains blessed by fine old architecture, a waterfront setting and a choice location between New York and Boston. It will reinvent itself. In the meantime, it must live with this huge irony: Two years hence, the auto-body shops banished from Fort Trumbull would have been employing more people in New London than the pharmaceuticals giant they were sacrificed for."

The key phrase here is,"would have been," because, of course, they are no more-and the owners at Willets Point do not want to be in the same position that the home owners and auto body shop operators of New London are today: totally right, but posthumously-with the City of New York, much like New London, stuck with a huge bill for nothing

Workers and small businesses need better political leadership than they have gotten over the past eight years. The fight over Kingsbridge-and the continuing fight over the development of Willets Point-symbolize the blowing winds of political change. Mike Bloomberg is part of the old mindset-and Bronx BP Ruben Diaz represents the new outlook. Which leads us to close with this question for the mayor: "Brother, can you paradigm?"