Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Bloomberg's Legacy

Stuart Appelbaum, in a cogent analysis of just what's at stake in the Kingsbridge Armory battle, lays out what's at stake for the legacy of Mike Bloomberg: "Faced with record unemployment and a collapsing middle-class, the mayor must focus his last term on the monumental task of rebuilding the city's sputtering economy. He must also begin to recognize that real prosperity doesn't trickle from the top down; rather it is methodically and carefully built from the grassroots up. The battle over the permanent retail and other jobs planned for the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Plan in the Bronx is his first challenge."

But at this late hour, it isn't clear that the mayor understands the issue of development from any perspective other than that of the real estate scions-and his administration has been loath to endorse any living wage provision for the Armory: "So far, and not surprisingly, Related has refused to sign the CBA. Many of our elected leaders believe, as do most New Yorkers, that when a private corporation receives public support, the public has the right to expect something in return. Unfortunately, one New Yorker, the one at the top, has publicly taken the opposite position. Mayor Bloomberg revealed this opposition when he told the Daily News this week, "The city is not in the business of guaranteeing people's wages."

And Appelbaum underscores just what is at stake for struggling New York workers: "Over the course of this decade the fastest growing source of private sector jobs in New York has been in the retail industry, but it is also one of the worst paying. An alarming 44 percent of retail workers earn less than $10 an hour. The implications of this aren't only staggering for the low-wage worker, but for taxpayers who foot the bill for the social services they need for their families to survive."

That is why the Bronx delegation to the city council has endorsed this crucial measure-bolstered by the strong leadership of Bronx BP Ruben Diaz Jr. What these electeds are saying quite clearly, is that enough's enough-no more gold mine to the Relateds and a shaft of the workers. Workers, especially those in the Bronx, need more than a guaranteed poverty wage.

As Appelbaum points out: "To guarantee good paychecks at Kingsbridge, last year an alliance pioneered by a coalition of labor, community, and faith-based organizations, have been pressing the developer of Kingsbridge, the Related Companies, to sign a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). The agreement would insure that in return for public support and monies, Related Companies must sign a contract ensuring its tenants will pay the retail and building workers a living wage and maintain neutrality during union organizing drives."

As things stand today, the entire project is up in the air. The Bronx delegation has put an offer on the table-and any supermarket in the Armory is out of consideration. It is up to the mayor and Related to respond, or the project could very well be defeated: "Now it is up to Mike Bloomberg to determine his mayoral legacy. He can be the mayor who helped rebuild the city's middle-class to make us great again. Or he can be remembered as the mayor who only built up the wishes of wealthy CEOs and developers."

These next two days will determine to what extent Mike Bloomberg's, "save the middle class," campaign rhetoric was more than just smoke. We have our suspicions as to his real feelings, but maybe he will be able to transcend class bias support the community's demands. He should do so while thinking about how he could be remembered.