Friday, January 08, 2010

A Living Armory?

The NY Post reported yesterday, that new Bronx council member Francisco Cabrera has not given up on the development of the Kingsbridge Armory: "The Economic Development Corporation request for proposals that Related secured to redevelop the city-owned armory has expired, a spokesman for the EDC said. The spokesman reiterated what Bloomberg has warned – it will be several years before another developer agrees to invest in the armory. Cabrera disagrees. As councilman for the district that includes the armory, he’ll weigh options such as a shopping mall, a pharmaceutical research hub and an athletic track, he said. If the City Council passes a comprehensive living wage bill, there would be no significant quarrel between the Bronx Delegation and Related, Cabrera surmised."

Well, in our view, that all depends on the mayor-who generally exhibits all the character of a "I'm taking my ball and going home" kinda guy. Will Bloomberg have any stomach for a renewal of the fight? Or, perhaps, will he finally be willing to really listen to the KARA folks? And contrary to a bit of revisionist history from EDC's Dave Lombino, a mall was never part of the community's vision: "KARA leader and Fordham Hill resident Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter thinks an agreeable developer or band of developers will soon step forward to renovate the armory but identified none. “Our vision for the armory was never a mall,” Pilgrim-Hunter said. “We shouldn’t pursue that going forward.”

And what about the living wage issue? Cabrera, for one, believes fervently in the living wage principles and seems interested in pursuing city wide legislation in order to avoid another site fight: "Cabrera sided with the Bronx Delegation and Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who argued that 1,200 retail jobs promised by Related would keep poor Bronx residents poor. Members of Cabrera’s congregation work two and three minimum wage jobs, he said. The result is “a generation without fathers and mothers at home,” the pastor explained. “We did the right thing,” Cabrera said. “God dictated our decisions. We heard the community. Development that keeps people poor isn’t good development.”

The Indypendent also weighs in on the city wide campaign to come: "The next step in requiring retailers to pay living wages at projects that receive public subsidies is an ordinance proposed by Bronx Councilmembers Annabel Palma and G. Oliver Koppell. John Petro, urban policy analyst at the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, said that, if passed, this ordinance “would completely change the way the city handles economic subsidy deals. It sends a clear message to companies that pay their employees poverty-level wages: If you want to benefit from public subsidies, you will have to pay a living wage.”

And our new Public Advocate seems to be on board as well; although in an editorial in today's NY Daily News that has not yet been posted on-line, Bill de Blasio continues to suffer from lockjaw when it comes to any mention of the Kingsbridge Armory-only talking generally about IDA funding and the need to insure that workers' rights are protected when tax subsidies are forthcoming. Come on Bill, give KARA a shout out!

But, as we said earlier, we will be seeing a renewed challenge to the Bloomberg-top down-economic development model in the months ahead. It hasn't helped the city avoid the devastating impacts of the current recession-only exacerbating the mayor's tax happy approach to government policy making. We sense that that to might be in for an extreme makeover as the city's budget shortfalls continue to mount.