We just got a press release from Borough President Ruben Diaz announcing that the will recommend a "no" vote to the City Planning Commission on the Kingsbridge Armory project.
His chief reason for giving the thumbs down is that the city's chosen developer, the Related Companies, has not yet agreed to the terms of a community benefits agreement.
Diaz did say he would like to continue to work with Related and community stakeholders on drafting a CBA.
“While I cannot offer my approval to this proposal at this time, I am hopeful that the developer will continue negotiations with my office and the community stakeholders to craft a strong community benefits agreement that allows both the developer and our neighbors to prosper from this project,” Diaz said in the statement.
Diaz's decision represents a monumental sea change compared with his predecessor, Adolfo Carrion, Jr., who was widely criticized for minimizing community involvement in the Gateway Mall and Yankee Stadium negotiations and exacting meager community benefits from developers and the city in return for supporting those projects.
Community Board 7 approved the Armory project in July, but subject to several conditions, top among them the crafting of a CBA.
Now the focus shifts to Related and the City Council. Will Related negotiate? Will Council members support the project if they don't? This issue is particularly likely to loom large in the Council primaries in the 11th and 14th Districts, where Oliver Koppell and Maria Baez will cast important votes that are sure to guide others from around the borough and the rest of the city.
We'll keep you updated. In the meantime, here's the rest of that press release.
Several weeks ago, Borough President Diaz’s office submitted a draft community benefits agreement to the developer in hopes of negotiating the terms of that document with the Related Companies in advance of the borough president’s submission to the City Planning Commission.
That document includes provisions concerning a 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.
The draft community benefits agreement also calls for a supermarket or big-box warehouse club to be excluded from the development. The Related Companies signed a similar community benefits agreement as part of their development of the Gateway Center Mall at the Bronx Terminal Market.
In his ULURP recommendations, Borough President Diaz outlined additional concerns he has regarding the development of the Kingsbridge Armory. They include the effects of the retail mall on neighborhood traffic, the failure to include educational facilities in or around the Kingsbridge Armory, and the lack of any study of the impact the mall could have on local businesses, particularly the Fordham Road business district and the River Plaza retail center in Marble Hill.