Thursday, December 03, 2009

The 11th Hour

As the Bronx News Network is reporting, the decision on the fate of the Kingsbridge Armory is drawing near-with a final vote expected on the 9th of this month at the city council. The key land use committee meets today-and KARA will be holding a presser to once again demonstrate the community's commitment to a living wage, bo supermarket and the recognition of labor rights: "according the City Council's online agenda for the Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee tomorrow morning, the four land use changes that Related and the EDC are applying for with regards to the Armory project are up for discussion (and a vote?). They are listed as agenda items 2 through 5. There have been rumors swirling that the vote will get pushed back until next Wednesday, but we haven't been able to confirm anything.]"

Well, there won't be a vote today because there has been no movement to any kind of negotiated settlement-a meeting between the city and the Bronx delegation yesterday didn't appear to move the ball at all: "Over the past weeks, the developer, Related Companies, and the Bronx City Council delegation have been at a standstill over the main issue of the shopping mall development: providing a living wage ($10 an hour plus benefits) for retail workers. If both factions refuse to back down, both the Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee and the City Council appear poised to reject Related’s proposal and start from scratch."

Now we are all for total failure in these kinds of battles-even though it is a rare occurrence in the city council's normal course of deliberation-but it would be nice if the city and Related would begin to recognize how committed the folks are on the wage issue so that a precedent could be set on the Armory project. The ball, however, is in their court, and so far nothing has changed: "Related insists that including a living wage requirement will deter retail companies from setting up shop in the mall. They believe the community will benefit from the 2,200 jobs created during and after construction of the mall, regardless of wage level."

And if no movement occurs-Speaker Quinn has been ominously quiet on the issue-the project could be set to an ignominious defeat: "Meanwhile, the Bronx delegation, along with an apparent majority of the Zoning and Franchising Subcommittee, hold that guaranteeing living wage jobs is a small fee for Related to pay, since they stand to make a bundle off of the development. They say the jobs currently being offered at the proposed Armory mall would do nothing to lift a community mired in poverty."

And an earlier report that the application would be modified-and the clock stretched to December 21st-appears to have been shot down: "The Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA) fears that delaying the vote will only allow the Bloomberg administration, which is in favor of the development and against living wage guarantees, more time to influence Council members.“[Related has] had well over two years to negotiate,” said KARA’s Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter. “They met with the Bronx delegation twice and they have left them empty handed."

So, in one of the most interesting and hard to predict land use battles we have ever seen, we have a situation where the outcome is still in doubt even at the 11th hour-and there is only one week left to decide. Still, there is plenty of time to come up with a settlement, but we aren't seeing what that could possibly look like-with both sides dug in and adamant on their positions.

Today's Presser


City Hall Pray-In for Living Wages at Kingsbridge Armory
Clergy Gather in Prayer, Call on City Council to See Wisdom in Requiring Living Wage Jobs at the Kingsbridge Armory

What: Clergy will gather on City Hall steps before going in to the meeting of the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises of the Land Use Committee to pray that City Council members see the wisdom in voting "No" on the rezoning and sale of the Kingsbridge Armory until the developer, The Related Companies, has signed a binding Community Benefits Agreement that includes living wage jobs, first source local hiring, protection of the right of retail workers to join a union without fear or intimidation, community and recreation space, and the exclusion of a supermarket or a big box grocery store.

Who: Clergy and members of the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance

When: Thursday, December 3, 9:00 AM

Where: New York City Hall Steps