Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Armory D-Day at the City Council

The final resolution of the redevelopment proposal for the Kingsbridge Armory is finally at hand-and the City Council will vote tomorrow. As we write, however, there has been no finalization of any living wage deal; and without that, the Village Voice feels that the project isn't worth doing-and we agree: "Activists want the proposed Kingsbridge Armory shopping center in The Bronx to mandate a "living wage" ($10 an hour with benefits, $11.50 without) for workers there. Sympathetic city councilmembers on the zoning committee threaten to make trouble, and the city tries to strike a deal with them. A vote is expected tomorrow. Kingsbridge developer Related Companies says neither they nor anyone else could make money with such a requirement. Today the Drum Major Institute has released a report citing the countervailing examples of other U.S. cities which require workers at chain stores -- in some cases, whether they receive city subsidies or not -- to be paid government-set living wages."

The sticking point here is the refusal of the city to mandate any living wage agreement, and without the guarantee there really isn't any agreement to speak of. As it stands, the Bronx delegation has the votes in committee to kill the project, so it should be aware of their leverage and make sure that there's an agreement with teeth. Everyone involved should remember the scorn that was heaped on former Bronx BP Carrion for essentially getting rolled on the Gateway Mall CBA.

The DMI Report underscores that living wage is not a Utopian idea, as the Voice highlights: "The DMI also claims that New York will, under the current arrangement, come out a loser under its current deal with Related. The report by DMI analyst John Petro says the $13.8 million in city subsidies Related will receive -- including a $7.8 million real estate tax exemption over four and a half years -- coupled with the $30 million New York spent cleaning up the Armory in 2003, and other emoluments, compare badly to the financial burden the city and state will obtain when "low-wage workers" at the shopping center inevitably apply for government benefits."

So let's set a lasting precedent for all future development in New York City-and the Council has a chance to be real pioneers on this crucial issue. All that's needed is the courage to act in the name of justice.