Newly elected AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, the nation’s top labor leader, touched down in the Bronx on yesterday afternoon to stand with local activists and union members in their ongoing struggle to exact significant concessions from the Related Companies, the developer of the Kingsbridge Armory project.
Trumka met with members of the Kingsbridge Armory Development Alliance (KARA) in a church on Reservoir Avenue and then spoke to union members and the press across the street in front of landmark facility.
He said the choice at the armory is between developing a project that is the “center and heart of this community,” or merely a “profit center for the developer.” He added, “People of conscience cannot allow this to become a profit center,” and he echoed KARA’s demands for a Community Benefits Agreement and living wage jobs.
The visit was clearly intended to ratchet up the pressure on politicians poised to weigh in on the development. Earlier this month, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz issued a negative recommendation to the City Planning Commission, which will vote on the Related Companies proposal on Oct. 19. Then the City Council will have the final say. Local Council members, including Oliver Koppell and Maria Baez, have indicated that they do not support the inclusion of a big-box supermarket at the armory but they are holding their cards close to their vests on how the other labor issues like the living wage will factor into their vote.
Meanwhile, Diaz, who has been trying to reach out to Related in hopes of crafting an agreement, says he has not received a response from the developer.
Stuart Appelbaum, head of the Retail Workers and Department Store Union (RWDSU), the local labor leader who invited Trumka to the armory, said that “bringing the head of the AFL-CIO the first week after he is elected sends a powerful message about what working people want in economic development. We hope the mayor and all elected officials hear that message. “
Trumka said he was impressed by the labor-community coalition organized by KARA. “We see it as a model to replicate all over,” he said.