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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

No Deal Yet, But Bronx Delegation Hopeful

The short-hand version is that there was no deal reached between the city and the Bronx delegation on a community benefits agreement that would include living wage job guarantees ($10 an hour, plus benefits). But things are moving in a positive direction and the delegation is hopeful that a deal will get done that will provide living wage jobs at the Kingsbridge Armory.

That's a far cry from earlier this morning, when the delegation was prepared to kill the project.
Now, the longer version.

The meetings of the Zoning and Franchises and Land Use committees has been pushed back until at least Friday, but possibly all the way until Monday -- the drop dead deadline for a Council decision on the Armory project. This is key because if the Council doesn't act on Monday, then the fate of the project will be up to the City Planning Commission, which approved of it, benefits agreement or not, six weeks ago.

"We won't let that happen," said Council speaker Joel Rivera, who has thrust himself into a citywide spotlight on this issue.

There is real sense -- among Council members, staffers, community activists, labor activists and the city's press corps (the NY Times had two reporters looking into the living wage issue today) --that whatever happens with the Armory will have an impact on the future of the city's development landscape.

"This will be a major policy change for the city," said Queens Councilman Tony Avella, as he stood with Rivera and a healthy contingent of Bronx-based Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA, huge living wage supporters) members at a 4 p.m. press conference. "This is a fight that is very important for the future of this city. This will be the line in the sand. There is no reason the mayor can't [make living wage jobs at the Armory a reality]."

There is also a sense that the mayor's office doesn't want to give up on this project. Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber and the city's Economic Development Corporation are leading the negotiations. Related officials are basically spectators at this point.

The proposal that is on the table, which we outlined last night and is still the template for the ongoing negotiations, would essentially be a city subsidy and wouldn't impact Related's bottom line much at all.

The details are still very much up in the air, but the bulk of this wage fund would come from Related's $5 million payment to the city to gain ownership of the Armory. That 5% of Related's rent profits going into the fund: no longer on the table.

Rivera admitted as much at press conference, saying, whether it's Related or the city putting up the money, "My goal is getting living wage jobs for my constituents."

"The sticking point," Rivera said, "is how this is going to be structured."

That's a pretty big sticking point. This deal is still far from a slam dunk and it will continue to develop over the next few days. We'll keep you posted.


  1. those who are fighting for a living wage are to be heartily commended. not only would this concept impact this project, but it would set the right precedent for the future so that public subsidies for developers require some payback to the public.

    however, the deal that's on the table... that the living wage would be paid for by PUBLIC monies is unacceptable... and really when you think about it... IT'S INSANE! if this is the deal, then we've been negotiating against ourselves the whole time!

    the center of this fight is not so that the public coffers, which are stripped bare as it is, subsidize the big developers, it's so that the for-profits themselves pay for what they earn.

    who cooked up this idea? it makes no sense. basically, community members are paying for the raise out of their own pockets! and especially after all this time of standing strong... THAT'S NUTS!

    if the city council delegation goes for this, man, the mayor and related are playing you for fools.

    i vote no... and send a HUGE message to EVERYONE involved that the Bronx will not be bullied and if it means that related walks... show them the plank. there are other developers out there to take on this project.

  2. If Bronx council members fight the good fight, I am confident that Tony Avella will back them up.

    Avella has protested against setting a bad precedent, and you can take that to the bank.

    I don't understand why these requirements were not made clear and declared unalterable conditions when the RFPs were being solicited. I don't see why these basics are being negotiated at this stage of the game.

    I agree with gaxinthebronx that the living wage should be paid by the developer, not the taxpayer. Joel Rivera seems a bit "unsteady" on this point.

    We deserve better. If we want to set a precedent, the EDC should be dissolved. That's a good precedent. All negotiations about issues of public concern should be negotiated in open meetings. Another good precedent. Back room deals do not serve the public interest.

    Certainly, I am not against setting precedents, as long as they serve the public's best interest.

  3. You have hit the nail on the head and i not only said it when it happened, but i questioned the people involved on BronxTalk at the time.... and that is the CBA had to be negotiated BEFORE the tax breaks were given. Once the tax breaks were given all leverage was lost.

    Imagine if it went down the other way... then if Related says i won't do it, you have 3 other proposals on the table and you say goodbye Related and hello to another proposal ready, willing, and able.

    but once those tax breaks were given, then if you try and hold the line, you risk having Related walk away and you have to start again, not to mention critics who are gonna call you stupid for sending jobs out the door.

  4. WOW. It went from schools (13 years ago)to community space (10 years ago) to a Living wage in 2008....to a public subsidy living wage in 2009???

    Yep, it seems the northwest bronx is getting hoodwinked, yet again?

    and god, this can not be public policy???


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