Monday, November 09, 2009

Related Disinformation

The Bronx News Network is reporting that the Kingsbridge Armory opposition is gaining steam-with the Bronx delegation optimistic that Speaker Quinn will follow its lead: "Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. and the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA) have been lobbying Bronx City Council members to reject the Related Companies’ plan to redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory into a giant shopping mall unless the firm sits down to negotiate a binding community benefits agreement with elected officials and community stakeholders. They seem to be having success."

The basis of their optimism? "Council Member Joel Rivera told the Norwood News on Wednesday that he and several other Bronx Council members are coalescing around the borough president who has taken a strong position on the project. The more united the Bronx Council members are the more likely Council members in other boroughs will follow their lead. Rivera's position is also important because he is the Council's majority leader and sits on the both Council panels that will review the project – the Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee and the Land Use Committee."

All of this is well and good-but we would caution any one who has the urge to get up and do an end zone dance just yet. There is a lot of hard political work ahead, and the Related Companies is not without resources of its own-including a more than cozy relationship with the city's chief executive. It is also not without the ability to disseminate disinformation.

That has taken the form of a letter from Related's attorney Jesse Masyr. In it Masyr, to the Bronx City Council Delegation, the Land use Committee, Speaker Christine Quinn and other citing a story in the Riverdale Press, accuses the KARA coalition of bad faith: "Unfortunately, as clearly evidenced by a statement from the leader of the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance that appeared in today's Riverdale Press, it is now obvious that KARA has not joined us in this commitment to good faith negotiation."

Masyr in accusing KARA of bad faith, however, resorts to outright deceit-chopping the Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter quote that appeared in the same article to make it look as if her organization's objective was simply to kill the project. Left out was the following conclusory statement from Ms. Pilgrim-Hunter: "We have no problem with a mall, if it was done in a way that would serve the community,” Ms. Pilgrim-Hunter said. “Developers should be working in partnership in the community, not against the community. We want the Armory Center, where people will come together as a community and not just to spend money. The community has specific needs and they are not being met.”

KARA follows up the Masyr missive with a corrective letter of its own; but the lesson here is that this is a company that will use all of its resources, and won't refrain from dirty tricks in its effort to keep on riding on the Bloomberg gravy train. Those of us who are concerned with the supermarket and living wage issues-and who support small business and worker rights-need to gird ourselves for thirty days or so of really nasty in-fighting. There is simply too much at stake to get complacent now.