Monday, November 23, 2009

Council panel set to kill Kingsbridge Armory project if builder refuses to pay workers 'living wage'

BY BILL EGBERT

Monday, November 23rd 2009, 4:00 AM

City council members could vote to kill the Kingsbridge Armory project, which would turn the fortress into a $310 million shopping mall.
Schwartz for News
City council members could vote to kill the Kingsbridge Armory project, which would turn the fortress into a $310 million shopping mall.


Council Majority Leader Joel Rivera
(D-Bronx) told the Daily News he has the support of enough members of the subcommittee on zoning and franchises, meeting Monday, to block plans to turn the 575,000-square-foot fortress into a $310 million shopping mall.Monday could be the turning point for the embattled Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment plan, with critical City Council members now claiming to have the votes to kill the project.

"We have the votes to pass it, or to kill it," said Rivera, who noted not just Bronx members on the committee are ready to vote the proposal down.

At issue is whether the developer, The Related Companies, will agree to require retail tenants to pay workers a living wage. Related has said it would have to walk away from the project because it would be unable to get bank financing under such terms.

Sources said that Related's options are to either offer some compromise on the wage issue, see the subcommittee kill the proposal or withdraw its application and let the city issue a new request for proposals to develop the armory.

Robert Lieber, deputy mayor for economic development, sided with Related at last Tuesday's subcommittee hearing, saying a wage requirement would scuttle the project.

Rivera and other Council members are set to meet privately with Lieber this morning prior to the hearing in what could be make-or-break negotiations, with Related officials expected to be standing by.

"They have a decision to make," Rivera said of Related. "Do they want to see this project move forward? If they don't budge, we have the votes to block it."

Calling opposition to the project "unprecedented," subcommittee Chairman Tony Avella (D-Queens) agreed the armory proposal could be doomed.

Opposition to the project has been building since Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. recommended nixing the project if Related does not sign a binding community benefits agreement with the living wage in it.

A living wage is generally defined as $11.50 an hour without benefits or $10 an hour plus benefits, compared to a $7.25 an hour minimum wage.

Though some U.S. cities have imposed citywide living wage mandates, New York has yet to adopt one.

wegbert@nydailynews.com




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