But it an effort to buy some more time for negotiations, the Zoning and Planning Subcommittee will most likely vote to nominally modify Related’s proposal to turn the Armory into a shopping mall, which will postpone the committee’s final voting deadline from Dec. 9 to Dec. 21.
Related insists that including a living wage requirement will deter retail companies from setting up shop in the mall, while the Bronx delegation, along with an apparent majority of the Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee, insist that a living wage ($10 an hour plus benefits) is a small fee for Related to pay, since they stand to make a bundle off of the development in addition to receiving tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies.
On Nov. 23, in an effort to work out the living wage issue, Zoning and Franchises decided to forgo further questioning of the Bloomberg administration in order to let the Bronx delegation meet with Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber, a supporter of Related’s development proposal. No representatives from Related attended the meeting.
One Council staffer who attended the meeting said both sides had their say, but no concessions were made. “The Council has drawn a line in the sand,” the staffer said. “Living wage is the deal breaker on both sides.”
Rivera said that modifying the proposal had little relevance to the project and was a procedural move to delay the vote. “We can modify just about anything,” he said. “In this case bureaucracy works in our favor.”
If Related does not budge on the living wage issue, the Bronx delegation, as well as the majority of the Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee, appears willing to let the Armory lie vacant for the foreseeable future. “It is not like the community is desperate for retail,” Rivera said. “I would rather [the armory] sit vacant and hold out for a better deal.”
The Bronx delegation’s firm stance on the importance of a living wage seems to have influenced the Council's approaches to other proposals. On the same day as the Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee on the armory, Council members Larry Seabrook of the Bronx and Helen Sears of Queens both asked about providing a living wage to construction workers at another Related development on the west side of Manhattan at the Western Rail Yard. Related responded that the issue of a living wage had not been discussed concerning that development.