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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Vacca Holds Out On Living Wage; No Hearing Date Yet

City Councilman James Vacca is the only Bronx member of the Council who has yet to throw his weight behind the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act--the bill that would require developers of retail projects receiving taxpayer subsidies to pay workers $10 an hour with benefits, or $11.50 without.

This week, his spokesman Bret Collazzi said the councilman is waiting for an official hearing to be held on the legislation before he takes a stance.

“He’s open to the idea, but he’s not there yet,” Collazzi said. “He’s met with both sides, he’s interested in it, but he won’t make a decision until the hearing.”

The fate of a hearing lies in the hands of  Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has said that she's opening to the Council having one. Quinn spokeswoman Maria Alvarado said nothing has been scheduled yet.

"No hearing date has been set at this point, but the committee is continuing to work on finding a date," she wrote in an E-mail.

The living wage bill has lingered in the Council for almost a year; it was introduced last spring by Council Members Oliver Koppell and Annabel Palma, and has strong backing from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., who led the effort to defeat the city’s plan to build a mall at the Kingsbridge Armory, mainly because the developer would not guarantee that retail workers be paid a living wage. [Corrected from an earlier version]

The bill currently has the support of 29 members, short of the 34 that would be needed to override a likely mayoral veto. Mayor Bloomberg has been vocal about his opposition to a living wage requirement on the grounds that it would harm small businesses and discourage development.

The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act would apply to any development project that receives more than $100,000 in tax breaks or city subsidies.

“We even exempted some small businesses to make sure we weren’t hurting small businesses that might not be able to pay these wages,” Council Member Koppell said at a rally for the legislation last month. “We worked hard to craft this bill so that there can be no exceptions [to it].”


  1. A few things here:

    1) You can see the result of a living wage law right on Goulden and Kingsbride; empty facilities that cost the community to maintain and add nothing to the social well being of the Bronx. Spring has sprung and still no announcement of what's going in the Armory (a year and a half later). Can you guys ask the BP?

    2) Would all non-profits be exempt? So a hospital pay a janitor minimum wage, but the Gap or Wal Mart cant? Why?

    3) I wonder why Vacca is holding out? Maybe his different constituencey (code for "white") aren't behind such a blatant extortion of private business?

  2. Jeanmaire,

    Borough Presidents don't introduce bills. Only council members can do introduce a bill.

    This bill is going nowhere. If the Speaker was in it, she would have made sure it was put on the calendar for a hearing already.

  3. I agree with anonymous above. The living wage at the Armory issue is a disaster still unfolding. We're losing millions in maintaining an empty building and lost tax revenue while we layoff teachers and cops, close firehouses, and can't even find the money to fix the damn potholes.

    Vacca needs to remain the voice of reason, even if he's the only one in the Bronx.

  4. Jimmy is right, look at what this bill has gotten us:absolutely nothing in the Armory. If I were a business I'd say screw you and take my jobs elsewhere.

  5. The bill was introduced into the City Council at the request of the Borough President. We've corrected the wording above. Thanks!

  6. Let's be specific, here: the Armory *may* turn out to be a "disaster." It isn't a disaster now, because the cost of upkeep + 'lost' sales tax receipts doesn't add up to anything even close to the subsidies that would have gone to the developers. So right now, the city is better off than it would have been, especially when you realize that the minimum wage jobs under the Related proposal wouldn't have generated any state income tax or relieved the burden on social services like Medicaid/Medicare, etc.

    What ARE unmitigated disasters are projects like the Gateway and Yankee Stadium parking facilities, and of course the scandalous filtration plant. These are great object lessons for the need for responsible development, not merely development for development's sake.

  7. Anon @6:16pm on 4/13 was wrong.

    Borough Presidents do have the power to introduce bills. See Section 82 of the City Charter -- included under the powers of the Borough President:

    "11. Have power to have legislation introduced in the council; such proposed legislation shall indicate that it was introduced at the behest
    of the borough president."

    And with regard to this specific legislation -- go look it up --it lists all the sponsors and also says:
    "(by the request of the Bronx Borough President)"


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