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Monday, December 14, 2009

More on Land Use Committee Vote

OK, back up and running here after some Internet difficulties.
Here's what I was going to post earlier:

Actually the vote was "yes," to reject the proposal, just to be clear. But the vote was 17 to 1 with one abstention. Council Member Helen Sears was the only member of the full Land Use Committee to vote no. Chair Melinda Katz abstained because of a possible conflict of interest, perhaps referring to her next job after she leaves the Council in January.

The full Council still has to vote a little later but it's a foregone conclusion that they will defeat the plan, too.

I just spoke to Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail Workers' union (RWDSU), which played a central role in the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance. Here's what he told me:

"Today the Council sent a strong message that economic development has to be good for the community and not just a private deveoper."

Tony Avella, chair of the Zoning and Franchises Committee, was a happy man after the two votes who clearly sees this as his crowning achievement on the Council. (He lost a Democratic primary bid for mayor in September and therefore will also be leaving the Council after this month.)

He says there has been no other vote like this during his tenure and that it will help rebalance the power equation between the mayor and the Council.

"This can only be a good thing," he said. "It's a great day for democracy. We're an equal body with the mayor."

He added regarding the Armory: "If we're going to do it, why not do it right?"

So why'd they vote no when there were murmurs over the weekend that some in the Bronx delegation were considering voting yes?

Well, a major obstacle seems to be the fund that the city was proposing to subsidize wages that were not at the living wage level. According to Council Member Joel Rivera, the city's Corporation Counsel said such a vote would violate the state's Constition. We'll have to look into this a little more.

At the center of a scrum of reporters earlier, Rivera insisted that the reason for the vote was not centered on the living wage issue despite his firm backing of the community's push for this requirment. He cited insufficient parking and a traffic study done by KARA that indicates that there would be more idling in the area (1500 more cars during peak hours) and possibly an exacerbation of the asthma rate.

But the Land Use Committee is charged with voting on Land Use issues, not wage issues, so it's not surprising that Council members are framing the issue a little differently after the vote. (Some are doing the reframing with a little twinkle in their eye.)

I'm going to interview some more of the Bronx Council members before the full Council meeting starts.

More soon.


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