This morning, Bronx Boro Prez Ruben Diaz, Jr. and Stuart Applebaum, the head of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, held a press conference on Kingsbridge Road, in front of the Kingsbridge Armory, to show solidarity in their opposition to a big-box supermarket at the Armory and also to promote the merits of the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) they sent to the Related Companies (the Armory's developer) last week.
Also showing their support were Assemblyman Jose Rivera, Councilwoman Maria Baez (suddenly, she's everywhere these days), Ozzie Brown of Community Board 7 and some members of the Kingsbridge Armory Redevlopment Alliance (KARA).
Diaz is withholding his recommendation for the Armory in hopes that he can leverage his support to gain more concessions from Related as the project goes back to the City Planning Commission for review on Sept. 9.
Just to clarify, Diaz is being considered non-compliant for not making a recommendation by the land review process' built-in Tuesday, August 25 deadline. But Diaz says the planning commission will still take his advice into account when they meet on Sept. 9. (Previously, we had reported that the city gave him an extension to make his decision. Technically, they didn't give him an extension. But practically, they did. Hope that clears things up.)
We also learned a few more details about what's included in the draft CBA sent to Related. One, as we reported last week, there is indeed a living wage "policy" included. Applebaum talked about a "living wage" of $10 an hour still only adds up $21,000 for a year. “Related is saying that $21,000 is too much to give workers in the Bronx, and I don’t accept that,” he said.
Basically Applebaum's argument went something like this: low-wage jobs, which is what the Armory mall plan appears to be providign, don’t make things better, they just keep people in poverty. He said the CBA wouldn’t “hinder Related’s ability to make a profit” and urged Related to accept it.
Related has said it will walk away before including living wage language in a CBA. We'll see if they budge on this.
Diaz is also asking for 60,000 square feet of community space, more than double the 27,000 square feet Related has included in its plan.
According to a press release sent out by Diaz's office, the CBA includes the outlines for these benefits: "living wage policy, first source and local hiring, various economic development initiatives, labor peace and the ability of employees at the retail development to unionize, community access to space at the Kingsbridge Armory and the development of a community facility as part of the project, the maintenance of local parks, green initiatives, and area traffic improvements."
Everyone there reitterated their opposition to having a new supermarket at the Armory, something several members of Board 7 said they would like to see. “Nothing [a supermarket] should be built here at the expense of all these merchants,” Rivera said, pointing at the stores across the street. “We’re not going to tolerate a big-box store.”
Diaz sent the draft CBA to Related last Monday. We don't know if they've been in contact over the phone, but it's pretty clear that they havent' discussed anything face to face. It's also now clear, given this press conference, that Diaz and the other Bronx stakeholders are trying to put some pressure on Related publicly.
“We have laid out a strong community benefits agreement, and we want to work with the Related Companies to make this project a reality. I look forward to sitting down with the developer in the coming days to discuss this document and the principles contained within it,” Diaz said. “Developers who do business in The Bronx must be mindful of the desires of the community, and we hope that Related will take that advice to heart.”
--James Fergusson did all the reporting for this post.