Monday, November 23, 2009

Mene, Mene, Tekel

Is the writing on the Armory wall for the redevelopment of that Kingsbridge landmark? According to this morning's NY Daily News, and Councilman Joel Rivera, it just might be: "Monday could be the turning point for the embattled Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment plan, with critical City Council members now claiming to have the votes to kill the project. Council Majority Leader Joel Rivera (D-Bronx) told the Daily News he has the support of enough members of the subcommittee on zoning and franchises, meeting Monday, to block plans to turn the 575,000-square-foot fortress into a $310 million shopping mall. "We have the votes to pass it, or to kill it," said Rivera, who noted not just Bronx members on the committee are ready to vote the proposal down."

Now, we have been down this kind of road before, and have seen many a unforeseen thing happen-so it isn't time yet for opponents to start any victory dances. And the real question is whether Related-and the administration-will be able to find a compromised middle ground: "At issue is whether the developer, The Related Companies, will agree to require retail tenants to pay workers a living wage. Related has said it would have to walk away from the project because it would be unable to get bank financing under such terms. Sources said that Related's options are to either offer some compromise on the wage issue, see the subcommittee kill the proposal or withdraw its application and let the city issue a new request for proposals to develop the armory."

Today could well tell the tale-and determine whether or not the redevelopment of the Armory will become the very first project to go down to actual defeat during Mike Bloomberg's mayoral tenure-although the Alliance was involved in another Related comeuppance over the building of a BJs warehouse club on Brush Avenue in 2005. At that time, the developer, bowing to the inevitable, did withdraw its application. As we told the Daily News when the zoning application was withdrawn: "They committed suicide rather than wait to be executed."

Whether history repeats itself, may now be up to the team of Bloomberg and Ross (Related's CEO Steve): "Rivera and other Council members are set to meet privately with Lieber this morning prior to the hearing in what could be make-or-break negotiations, with Related officials expected to be standing by. "They have a decision to make," Rivera said of Related. "Do they want to see this project move forward? If they don't budge, we have the votes to block it." Calling opposition to the project "unprecedented," subcommittee Chairman Tony Avella (D-Queens) agreed the armory proposal could be doomed."

Whatever happens, it is clear that the lobbying campaign that has been executed by KARA, the RWDSU and the Alliance has been a formidable one-and the issue of the supermarket that we raised at the earliest juncture doesn't even seem to be up for any discussion; so united is the Bronx delegation on this issue. If the Armory plan is defeated, it will mean that the next four years could well be characterized by a new found militancy at the city council.

The next few days may well tell the tale-but for Related and the mayor-just like for the Babylonian King Belshazzar-the writing may be on the wall. The room for maneuvering is getting smaller by the day.