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Thread: Kingsbridge Armory Conversion

  1. #16
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    thanks to brianac for the link to the armory slideshow. what a tremendous building...seems like it would be such a waste to put a "big box" store in there.

  2. #17
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    Monday, October 19, 2009

    City Planning Commission Votes in Favor of Armory Proposal but Diaz has Support of 2 Other BP's

    We just got word that, while the City Planning Commission gave the thumbs up to the Related Companies' proposal to redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory, the representatives of two other borough presidents -- Marty Markowitz of Brooklyn and Scott Stringer of Manhattan -- and Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum's rep joined Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz's appointee, Kenneth Knuckles, in opposing the plan. The final decision will be made within 50 days in the City Council. We'll have more soon, but here's what Diaz said in a statement.
    “While I am disappointed with the outcome of today’s vote, I am heartened that several of my colleagues from other boroughs stood with the people of my borough and agreed that the current proposal to redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory is a bad deal for The Bronx. Related has not adequately addressed the concerns that my office, in conjunction with the elected officials, community board and community groups from the area, have laid out in our community benefits agreement, nor does the developer seem at all interested in doing so.

    “We are not asking for anything radical or extreme. We are simply asking that, in a borough that has the highest poverty rate in the nation and has consistently seen the highest unemployment numbers in New York State, Related and their future tenants provide living wage jobs with benefits that allow Bronxites a chance to provide for their families and to build a better life. I am hopeful that the developer will sit down with my office to negotiate this issue and others prior to the City Council’s upcoming vote on the project, and I will continue to stand up and do what is right for the people of The Bronx,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

    http://www.bronxnewsnetwork.org/2009...ommission.html


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    Panel Approves Conversion of Kingsbridge Armory Into Mall

    By Sam Dolnick


    Richard L. Trumka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., spoke last month to community leaders about the development fight over the Kingsbridge Armory.

    The City Planning Commission approved a controversial plan Monday to turn the Kingsbridge Armory, a soaring red-brick castle in the northwestern Bronx, into a mall that will include a large department store, dozens of shops and a movie theater.

    The developer, the Related Companies, says the $310 million project will bring jobs and much-needed businesses to the working-class neighborhood while giving new life to a neglected landmark that has sat vacant for more than a decade.

    But the project has many detractors, among them the Bronx borough president, Rubén Díaz Jr., and a coalition of labor, religious and local groups.

    They argue that the deal should not be approved unless Related promises employees a “living” wage, allows workers to form a union, and provides community space on the site, among other demands.

    Dozens of protesters holding placards — “Say no way to poverty pay” — packed the room for Monday’s vote. The vote was 8 to 4, with one member of the commission, Maria M. Del Toro, having recused herself from the vote.

    Mr. Díaz’s representative on the Planning Commission voted against the project, as did the representatives of the Manhattan and Brooklyn borough presidents and the city’s public advocate. The City Council still has to vote on the project, within the next 50 days.

    The armory project “represents the most significant private investment in the northwest Bronx in generations,” the city’s planning commissioner, Amanda M. Burden, said before she voted in favor of the development.

    Related has been offered extensive subsidies and tax incentives for the project, which include more than $40 million in federal and state historic tax credits. The city also spent $30 million to replace the roof. Under the terms of the proposed deal, Related will pay $5 million for the property. The Kingsbridge Armory project is the latest in a string of recent, large developments that have prompted controversy in the Bronx, the poorest urban county in the nation, where 28 percent of residents live in poverty, according to census data.

    The Gateway Mall, also built by Related, opened this past spring and has drawn criticism for offering low-wage jobs, hurting local businesses, and charging parking fees. The new Yankee Stadium, just blocks from the Gateway Mall, has left many Bronx residents upset over the loss of parkland.
    Mr. Díaz and a coalition of neighborhood advocates have vowed that this time, the community would shape the project as much as the developer. But Monday’s vote was a blow to their cause.

    The opposition’s top priority has been fighting for a pledge that the jobs created by the armory project pay a “living” wage and offer benefits.

    Jesse Masyr, an attorney for Related, said requiring a living wage would force prospective tenants to rent space elsewhere. “We’re opposed to imposing an economic penalty to tenants that come to our site that doesn’t exist literally across the street or anywhere else in New York City,” he said.

    Unless Related changes its stance, Mr. Díaz said on Monday, “these jobs are not going to allow Bronx families to get themselves out of poverty.”

    He said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg was more interested in helping Related than Bronx residents, saying, “He wants his millionaire friends to continue to reap benefits from sweetheart deals.”

    In a statement, Mr. Bloomberg praised the Planning Commission vote, calling the project “an enormous opportunity to revitalize it as a hub of activity and jobs in the West Bronx.”

    Mr. Díaz’s opposition stands in stark contrast with that of his predecessor, Adolfo Carrión Jr., who welcomed the Gateway Mall. Mr. Carrión resigned as Bronx borough president in February to join the Obama administration as director of the new White House Office on Urban Affairs.

    Some economists dispute Related’s argument that guaranteeing a living wage would drive away tenants. Dan Morris, communications director at the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, a liberal but nonpartisan research center in New York, points to projects in cities like Minneapolis where he says development projects have successfully created living wage jobs without hurting business.

    “It’s a false dichotomy here between supporting development on the one hand and pushing a pro-worker agenda on the other — you can do both,” Mr. Morris said.

    Calls to a Related spokeswoman were not immediately returned.

    Prominent labor leaders have rallied around the armory fight. Presidents of five of the city’s largest labor unions recently sent letters to City Council members urging them to demand a living wage pledge, while Richard L. Trumka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., visited the armory last month to offer his support.

    The Kingsbridge Armory and its impressive turrets loom over its low-rise neighbors, a striking element of the local skyline. The building’s first resident was the National Guard’s Eighth Coastal Artillery Regiment, which moved in when the armory was completed in 1917. In the decades since, the building has played host to a women’s homeless shelter, music concerts and dog shows. It was declared a city landmark in 1974.

    The main building has sat vacant since about 2000.

    In the debate over its latest incarnation, the question of whether to include a grocery store in the plans has been one of the strongest points of contention.

    Some local leaders say the neighborhood needs a new grocery store that offers healthy, organic foods. But other advocates say a new supermarket would threaten two other nearby stores operated by a regional chain with deep roots in the Bronx. They have called for Related to pledge to keep a supermarket out of the armory to protect local businesses.

    After the vote, the Planning Commission tried to move on to other business, but the protesters interrupted the proceedings as they marched out of the hearing room, chanting, “Two, four, six, eight, Related must negotiate.”

    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/20...ory-into-mall/

  4. #19

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    I wish the city would start developing more commercial projects on its own rather than relying so much on bottom-line developers. At least they're doing a good job with parks, affordable housing, and buildings for various agencies. But think of all the other uses developers don't build because it doesn't make the most amount of money. If left up to developers the city would build nothing but condos, class A office space, and bank branches.

    Imagine if the city itself developed affordable retail and office space, galleries, clubs, amusements parks, bookstores, cafeterias, theaters etc..

    http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article...FREE/912149994

    Crain's
    Modified: December 14, 2009 3:58 PM
    City Council kills plan for 2,200 Bronx jobs

    Local politicos' and labor activists' insistence on jobs that pay $10 an hour or more torpedoes plans to turn long-empty Kingsbridge Armory into a mall.

    It would have been the largest development project in the Bronx since the recession began, a $310 million effort to turn the sprawling, long-derelict Kingsbridge Armory into a 500,000-square-foot shopping mall. It would have created 1,000 construction jobs and permanent posts for about 1,200 retail workers. It enjoyed the backing of the local community board, the mayor, the construction and building trade unions, and others.

    But on Monday it died on the floor of the City Council. The council's zoning subcommittee, Land Use Committee and full council voted overwhelmingly against the zoning change the project needed.

    In a statement, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the vote “means the loss of a rare opportunity to bring thousands of jobs and more than $300 million in private investment to The Bronx. Given that the national recession continues to weigh on the entire city and keep unemployment high—particularly in the Bronx—the outcome and timing couldn't be worse.”

    It was the first rezoning voted down since Mr. Bloomberg took office in 2002, although some proposals have been withdrawn when it became clear they lacked council support. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who helped rescue other Bloomberg rezonings, did not twist her members' arms this time.

    The city-subsidized project's clause of death, as it were, was a “living wage” provision that Bronx council members and some local groups insisted that the Related Cos., the project's developer, require tenants to pay employees. The minimum wage was to be $10 per hour with benefits, or $11.50 per hour without.

    Related said in a statement Monday, “While we have always offered various additional community benefits, the conversation never moved beyond a singular agenda—seeking to mandate wages on all future retail tenants, an issue that was always outside of the control of Related as a landlord.” It added that most of the jobs, including all the construction jobs, would have paid living wage.

    The developer steadfastly insisted that major retailers would balk at such terms, and thus lenders would refuse to finance the project. On the other side, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., six of the borough's eight council members, a coalition of community groups called the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA), and others said: no living wage, no deal.

    “There's a reason why there's a floor on wages,” said a spokesman for KARA. “Retail wages are certainly too low to live above the poverty rate in the Bronx.”

    The coalition includes the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, the Sustainable South Bronx and others. “They'd rather have no jobs than poverty-wage jobs,” said the spokesman for KARA, which was the first to make the living-wage issue front and center back in June, when members began attending community board meetings.

    The Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) and its outspoken president, Stuart Appelbaum, publicly embraced the call.

    The group's living-wage message caught fire with many leading political figures in the borough, including Mr. Diaz, who was elected in April and took a stand on the issue early in his term.

    “The idea that the city would say that it would never demand of a developer—who is benefiting from enormous public subsidies—that its development pay wages that would enable people to live in the neighborhood around the project, is really troubling,” said Joan Byron, an associate director at the Pratt Center for Community Development, which is working with KARA.

    The project has been in the works for more than a decade. What's been lost in all the noise is that the community board representing the neighborhood most affected by the project actually supported it.

    “We believe this project is critically important to the future of our neighborhoods,” wrote Gregory Faulkner, chairman of Community Board 7 in a March letter to City Comptroller Bill Thompson after it was reported that Mr. Thompson had made statements in support of a living-wage clause.

    Mr. Faulkner wrote that his board recognizes that efforts must be made to keep the project “financially feasible,” meaning no binding living-wage requirement.
    In June, the 36-member board backed up its chairman by overwhelmingly voting in favor of the plan.

    In November the saga took an unexpected turn when the powerful Building and Construction Trades Council broke with Mr. Appelbaum's retail union and began campaigning in favor of the project. It was quickly joined by the Building Trades Employers' Association.

    “If the City Council votes to disapprove of this project because of the living-wage provision, that would be a huge hit to the 30% of union apprentices who live in the Bronx,” said Louis Coletti, the president of the New York Alliance of Building Contractors, before today's City Council vote.

    The building trades council went further, with President Gary LaBarbera saying, “Those who don't support this project don't support putting our members to work.”

    Internally, even among the ranks of those who are most adamant about a living-wage clause, there is talk that the effort may have spun out of control. A source involved in the negotiations said last week that the retail workers union had approached Related, saying it might be willing to settle for an agreement that would allow it to organize employees at the Armory, and might be willing to quietly drop the living-wage demand.

    Building service workers union 32BJ also withdrew from the living-wage coalition after reaching some sort of understanding with Related, an insider said.

    Talks between living-wage backers and the Bloomberg administration reached an impasse Friday and never regained momentum. The council's vote means the entire land-use review process would have to be started again to revive the project. That would take at least a year.
    Last edited by Derek2k3; December 14th, 2009 at 10:54 PM.

  5. #20
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    Council Hands a Rare Defeat to Related Over Armory Project [Updated]


    December 14, 2009

    The City Council is preparing to hand a defeat Monday to the Related Companies, the normally-successful development powerhouse that sought to turn the giant Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx into a mall.

    The forthcoming rebuke--the Land Use committee Monday morning voted 17-1 against the project--is an extremely rare action for a Council that, in the end, almost always supports proposed development projects throughout the city.

    But here, the debate evolved into a binary choice about living wage and whether to mandate that all retailers in the $323 million mall pay their employees at least $10 an hour. Related said this would be impossible--no bank would lend it the money to build, and no major retailer would agree to come in when wages could be different at a nearby store.

    But the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union applied heavy pressure on the issue, saying no jobs were better than "poverty jobs" (not noting that a major portion of the mall's jobs were to have been above $10 an hour), and proceeded to demand, successfully, that the Bronx delegation on the Council make an example of Related, and vote the project down. The Bloomberg administration tried to save the project, putting more subsidy into the deal and offering an optional living wage program for retailers.

    In a sense, the vote injects a new sense of hazard into New York's land-use fights, in which the Council often threatens to vote against a given project but never actually pulls the trigger (concessions are always thrown its way to avoid a defeat).

    The only other defeat in recent memory of a major development project at the Council was also a Related project: In 2005, the Council voted down a planned big-box development on Brush Avenue where Related wanted to put a BJ's.

    Lobbyist Richard Lipsky, who opposed Related on both projects, called Monday morning's move a "precedent-setting" one in a chat with The Observer's Azi Paybarah.

    Update:

    The final vote in the full Council was 45-1, with the lone no vote coming from Councilwoman Helen Sears. Numerous speakers called the moment "historic," though Ms. Sears and one other member, Councilman Peter Vallone, questioned the logic in defeating a job-creating development in a recession.

    http://www.observer.com/2009/real-es...rmory-project#

  6. #21
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    Bloomberg Backlash

    Emboldened New York City Council kills Kingsbridge Armory plan, sending strong message to mayor



    The City Council pushed back against one of the city’s most influential developers and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today when members overwhelmingly voted against the Related Companies’ proposal to turn the abandoned Kingsbridge Armory in the western Bronx into a massive mall. The council also extracted considerable concessions from the same developer on its plans for a transformed Hudson Yards.

    In so doing, the council sent two powerful messages to the Bloomberg administration, which has lost its air of invincibility following last month’s surprisingly close mayoral election. First, members are no longer willing to rubber-stamp the city’s development plans, which they want a greater role in shaping. And second, city-subsidized projects like Kingsbridge—one of several large malls proposed in recent years—will now be expected to provide more robust benefits for those employed by them.

    Over the last eight years, virtually no land-use project, and none on the scale of the Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment, have been defeated. Some, like the rezonings of 125th Street, Willets Point, and Coney Island, went down to the wire, but all ultimately succeeded through eleventh-hour negotiations. Despite postponing today’s decision twice to buy more time, the project was shot down by a vote of 45 to 1.

    “I think EDC tried their hardest,” said councilmember Joel Rivera, who represents the area surrounding the armory, referring to the city’s Economic Development Corporation. “It’s unfortunate we were unable to come to an agreement.”

    At the heart of the negotiations was a so-called living wage, a standard well above the legally required minimum that has become popular with labor unions. In the case of Kingsbridge, the community was seeking $10.00 per hour with benefits or $11.50 without. The council argued that because the project was receiving millions of dollars in city subsidies, it should provide a commensurate public benefit.

    Ruben Diaz, Jr., the Bronx borough president who led the charge against the project with Rivera, called today’s vote the dawning of a new era, particularly for his borough, which has the highest poverty rate in the city. “That notion that any job is better than no job no longer holds,” Diaz said during a celebratory press conference on the steps of City Hall.

    The project was overturned on technical grounds, because the council is only allowed to consider land-use issues when making land-use votes.

    Among the issues cited by the council were insufficient parking, traffic congestion, and the asthma threats associated with them. “We cannot approve a project that will bring more people to an area that is already choked with traffic and pollution,” council speaker Christine Quinn said at a press conference before the vote. She did add that there were a number of important non-land-use matters weighing on the decision, though ultimately the technical deficiencies of the city’s plan were enough to derail it.

    Quinn also heralded her success at Hudson Yards, where the developer has now committed to make 20 percent of the 5,000 housing units affordable, many of them permanently. “Creating affordable housing in any part of the city is not easy, but in my district—where land prices have grown so high in Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen—it’s even harder,” Quinn said. In the rezoning, which passed by a vote of 47–0, the Bloomberg administration agreed to new green space and tree planting in Hell’s Kitchen; moving ahead on a Hell’s Kitchen South historic district; additional community oversight of the 10 acres of open space at Hudson Yards; and a special construction task force that will address quality-of-life issues that may arise as Related builds out its 12 million-square-foot development.

    It remains to be seen how the administration will respond to today’s votes. In a statement, the mayor suggested that he remains unwilling to change his approach, calling a living wage “a line we were never going to cross.”

    “It’s a disappointing and irrational outcome,” Bloomberg continued, “but New Yorkers can rest assured our administration will not waver in our efforts to encourage private sector investment and job creation in the Bronx and throughout New York City.”

    While Quinn cautioned against reading today’s votes as a turnabout in the council’s relationship with the mayor, councilmember Tony Avella—a frequent administration critic and Democratic mayoral candidate earlier this year—saw the council’s action as just that. “I think this is a message that the council is going to assert its role as an equal partner in shaping this city,” Avella said. “For too long, the council and the speaker have just gone along with the mayor.”

    Brooklyn representative Diana Reyna agreed, having had her own recent brush with the administration over the Broadway Triangle. Last week, Reyna came within one vote of overturning the city’s plan to rezone the area because there was insufficient affordable housing and community outreach. “Moving forward, we have to set an agenda in this body that will benefit the community, not the special interests,” Reyna said.

    Matt Chaban

    http://www.archpaper.com/e-board_rev.asp?News_ID=4116

  7. #22
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    Voting 45-1, Council Rejects $310 Million Plan for Mall at Bronx Armory

    By SAM DOLNICK

    Bronx advocates said that the City Council vote on Monday to reject a $310 million project to build a mall inside the Kingsbridge Armory provided an opportunity to come up with a more community-oriented plan for the massive red-brick castle.

    City Council members who voted down the project 45 to 1, with one abstention, said that the plan, proposed by the Related Companies, would have created hundreds of jobs that would have paid at or around the state’s minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, pay that they called too low to support local families.

    They wanted Related to pledge that every job at the mall would pay at least $10 an hour, arguing that the company was set to receive more than $50 million in tax credits and exemptions. Many cities across the country have similar requirements for projects built using public money.

    But Related said that any requirement to pay above minimum wage would make it impossible to attract tenants or secure financing.

    The two sides negotiated through Sunday night, but with neither willing to bend, the Council voted to kill project, quashing plans that the developer said would have created 1,000 construction jobs and about 1,200 permanent ones.

    The Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance, a coalition of labor, religious and community leaders, said it would seek to work with a developer that would turn the building into a community resource that offers space for recreation, cultural and educational activities.

    “We want development that will improve the community but not at the expense of pushing poor people out,” said Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter, a longtime Bronx advocate.

    The vote was a surprising defeat for the Bloomberg administration, which championed the project as a valuable investment that would spur much-needed economic development in the city’s poorest borough.

    But to many in the Bronx, the Kingsbridge Armory project and the prospect of so many low-wage jobs crystallized what opponents regarded as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s disregard for working-class families. The fight for a “living wage” became a populist battle against “profits for barons,” in the words of Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr., and an opportunity to hold developers that use public funds accountable.

    “I am against any irresponsible project that would bring negative impacts to the community,” said Councilwoman Annabel Palma, the leader of the Bronx delegation. She cited traffic problems and parking concerns, along with the low wages, as the project’s biggest problems.

    Mr. Bloomberg called the vote “disappointing and irrational.” In a statement, he said, “As a result of today’s vote, we can say one thing for sure: There will be no wages paid at all at the Kingsbridge Armory for the foreseeable future.”

    Related, which has built projects across the city, including several in the Bronx, blamed the collapse of the plan on “outside groups imposing artificial wage demands that do not exist anywhere else in New York City or New York State.”

    The armory, a federal, state and city landmark on Kingsbridge Road at Jerome Avenue, was built by the city between 1912 and 1917 and was used to store arms and ammunition and to train troops. Since then, it has been used as a shelter for homeless women and a concert space, among many other incarnations, but it has sat vacant for more than a decade.

    On Monday, council members played down the importance of the wage issue and maintained that land-use problems were the main reason for the outcome of the vote, part of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. But for months, the wage dispute has drowned out other concerns.

    Advocates praised the Council’s vote, and members of the alliance gathered Monday at City Hall with signs saying, “Bloomberg to Bronx: Drop dead.”

    Mr. Bloomberg’s office said he would veto the Council’s decision. But the Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, said she had the two-thirds majority vote needed to override him.

    The armory vote, originally scheduled for last week, was postponed to allow for further negotiation. One potential compromise was a city fund to pay retail employees at the armory extra wages on top of what employers paid, or to provide them with MetroCards and other benefits. The fund would have been financed partly with the $5 million that Related offered to pay for the building. That idea collapsed when the city lawyers said aspects of it would run afoul of the State Constitution, Councilman Joel Rivera said.

    The Council’s demand for higher paying wages was not unprecedented.

    Nearly 200 cities already require developers using public money to pay more than the minimum wage, according to Peter Dreier, a politics and urban policy professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles who has studied wage issues.

    At the Kingsbridge Barber Shop, across the street from the hulking armory, barbers and customers alike said the community did not need a mall, or more low-wage work.

    “People need jobs, but they don’t need chump change,” Jose Nuñez said as he cut a customer’s hair on a recent afternoon. “This building belongs to the people in this area.”

    From the barber’s chair, Courtney Brooks agreed. “We’re not suckers in the Bronx,” he said. “We’re not going to take whatever somebody is offering.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/15/ny...gewanted=print

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    Mike's call to armory

    NY POST
    By DAVID SEIFMAN
    City Hall Bureau Chief
    December 16, 2009

    Mayor Bloomberg yesterday vowed to veto an overwhelming City Council vote killing a plan to convert the Bronx's Kingsbridge Armory into a shopping mall, saying the loss of the 1,200 jobs it would have created in the current economy was "really unfortunate."

    The measure was rejected Monday after months of opposition from labor unions and others who wanted every retailer signing a lease there to be required to pay a "living wage" of $10 an hour, plus benefits, when the minimum wage is $7.25.

    Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., triumphantly crowed after the vote that no jobs were better than low-paying ones.

    "We here maintain that notion that any job is better than no job no longer applies," he said.

    "What happened . . . at the City Council is historic. . . . It is huge in that for the very first time in a long time, we've seen how the interests of the people have prevailed over corporate America and boy, does that feel good!"

    At a speech last night in The Bronx, Gov. Paterson decried double-digit unemployment in the borough, likening it to a "depression" -- but still backed the council vote.

    "When the entire [Bronx] delegation feels that way, I would respect that they must know something," he said.

    The governor added the project was criticized for spending more money "on commercial opportunities and not addressing the issue of disaffected youth."

    Bloomberg, at the Copenhagen climate-change summit, accused council members who smacked down the project 45-1 of acting for parochial reasons, meaning their own political concerns.

    He added, "We will veto it. It is the right project for The Bronx."

    There are clearly enough votes to override a veto.

    Still, Bloomberg was insistent, saying, "This would generate a lot of jobs 1,000 construction jobs, 1,200 permanent jobs.

    "To turn down this project at a time when we really need those jobs is really unfortunate."

    The death of the armory revamp was an unusual defeat of a development plan for Bloomberg, whose proposals have generally been pushed forward by the council under Speaker Christine Quinn.

    Bloomberg insisted the vote "would have turned out differently" if the legislator representing the area wasn't absent. Councilwoman Maria Baez is battling a serious illness and has been absent for weeks.

    The mall was supposed to be developed by Related Companies, which worked on other projects around the city and alongside the Bloomberg administration.

    The opposition was led in large part by the retail workers union and its head, Stuart Appelbaum.

    Additional reporting by Carl Campanile

    Copyright 2009 NYP Holdings, Inc.

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    Limited clout of Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Christine Quinn doomed Kingsbridge Armory deal

    BY Frank Lombardi and David Saltonstall

    December 16th 2009

    A perfect storm of political headwinds blew apart plans to make Kingsbridge Armory a massive shopping mall, insiders said.

    "Events came together in exquisite fashion," said Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist who worked to kill the mall proposal.

    The causes of death were many, observers said.

    There was the waning influence of Mayor Bloomberg after his closer-than-expected reelection.

    There was an unusually united Bronx Democratic machine, said others, and the inability of Council Speaker Christine Quinn to stand up to that machine as she faces her own reelection bid for speaker next month.

    And, as Bloomberg declared yesterday, there was City Councilwoman Maria Baez. The one-time head of the Bronx Council delegation lost her reelection bid and has since been sidelined by illness.

    "She wasn't around to spearhead," Bloomberg told reporters. "Otherwise I think the vote would have turned out differently."

    In truth, it was probably all the above - a rare confluence of people and agendas that in the end kept a $324 million proposal from getting off the ground in the Bronx.

    Baez's absence left a power vacuum that was filled by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and other backers of the deal's union-backed "living wage" push.

    Bloomberg toyed with ways to meet the wage demands, but in the end he pulled his offer off the table, insiders said.

    "A compromise was there," Bronx Councilman Oliver Koppell insisted. "I'm very annoyed at the mayor's office."

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    Council Overrides Veto, Blocking Plan for Armory Mall

    By SAM DOLNICK

    The City Council dealt a final blow on Monday to a developer’s plans to build a mall inside the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx, a significant defeat for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on a key project.

    The Council voted 48 to 1, with one abstention, to override Mr. Bloomberg’s veto of its decision last week to defeat the plan, signaling the resentment the mayor faces on the eve of his third term.

    Related Companies, the developer picked for the project, would have received more than $50 million in tax credits and exemptions for the plan.

    The company says the $310 million project would have created 1,000 construction jobs and 1,200 permanent ones in the Bronx, where the unemployment rate is the highest in the city. Mayor Bloomberg had backed the plan as a much-needed investment to spur economic development in the area.

    But the City Council and local advocates objected to the mall, mainly because Related refused to require all prospective employers at the site to pay at least $10 an hour. Many of the jobs created would have paid at or around the minimum wage, $7.25 an hour.

    A coalition of religious leaders, community advocates and labor groups pushed hard against Related’s plans, framing the mall as a boon for a well-connected development company that would be built at taxpayers’ expense. The group, known as the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance, won the support of Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. and many other local officials.

    After the vote last week, leaders of the coalition said they hoped the armory would be developed to offer more space for cultural, educational and recreational activities.

    But Mayor Bloomberg warned Monday that the soaring brick castle, which has been vacant for more than a decade, may now sit empty for many more years.

    “I just think it’s so disappointing for so many people who want jobs,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “It’s a great tragedy, but we have to move on.”

    The Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, said that she was disappointed the two sides could not reach a compromise. The armory, she said, was “the only economic development project in the four years of the mayor and I working together where we haven’t been able to come to an agreement.”

    The armory vote highlighted the political difficulties Mr. Bloomberg is likely to face after narrowly winning a third term last month. To the applause of his colleagues in the Council chambers, Councilman G. Oliver Koppell of the Bronx said that although he regretted that the armory would stay vacant, “there is only one administration and one mayor to blame.”

    Councilwoman Helen Sears of Queens, who lost her seat in last month’s vote, cast the lone vote in support of the mayor. She also cast the only vote in support of the project last week.

    Council members said that in addition to the wage issue, they also objected to Related’s traffic and parking plans for the area, though those issues played a minor role through weeks of negotiations.

    The armory, a federal, state and city landmark, was built by the city between 1912 and 1917 and was used to store arms and ammunition and to train troops. Since then, its many lives have included a shelter for homeless women and a concert space.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/22/ny...er=rss&emc=rss

  11. #26
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Suggestion to mods: perhaps adding Kingsbridge to the title somewhere?



    New York's Community-Labor Divide

    A nasty split as the Council finally bucks the mayor

    By Tom Robbins

    It's just our luck that the first time the City Council actually musters the courage to face down Mike Bloomberg, it's to kill a plan that—whatever its flaws—would have put hard-pressed New Yorkers back to work. Not that it wasn't a huge thrill watching it happen.

    A riled-up and all but unanimous Council voted 45-1 last week against the mayor's scheme to hand the cavernous old Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx—property of the City of New York—over to his favorite developer.

    The plan was to create a profitable mega-mall, kick-started with some $50 million in tax breaks and subsidies. The developer is the mighty Related Companies, the outfit that has defined the look of ostentatious wealth in the Bloomberg era. They have the soaring Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, with its glittering shops and condos. Right up the street here at Astor Place, they built the hideous "sculpture for living." It is 21 floors of mirrored glass and contains all of 39 apartments.

    It was a thrill, too, because Related's top people are personal friends of the richest New Yorker: Steve Ross is one of those who whispered in Bloomberg's ear last year, urging him to grab that third term. Ross was once a business partner of Dan Doctoroff, Bloomberg's old top deputy. Doctoroff is now back in the private sector running something called Bloomberg LP. When Related partner Jeff Blau recently needed references to help him land a lush pad in an exclusive Fifth Avenue co-op, the mayor wrote a nice letter and called people on the board on Blau's behalf (he was still rejected). Among the rich, this is called networking. It could also be called a conflict of interest, but the city board charged with examining such things is too busy scrutinizing school teachers and sanitation workers to notice.

    How well is this crew from Related doing? Just last week, they opened their own bank. They modestly called it SJB National, a clever combination of the initials of the first names of Related's owners. Already, they have lined up a billion dollars in deposits. They are prospering even more on Manhattan's far West Side, where Related is the city's designated developer of a $15 billion project that will rise over the sprawling rail yards. This, too, is being accomplished with a massive package of city tax aid and investment.

    These are the same people who reacted with outrage when local Bronx residents and unions demanded that retail jobs at the city-subsidized mall be more than part-time employment and pay above minimum wage. "That would make us uncompetitive!" screeched Related's owners, their faces scrunched in horror.

    The demand also horrified their friend the mayor. Even as his advisers told him that the Council would vote down the project without a wage deal, Bloomberg thundered against it, offended by the very notion. The Friday before the vote, the wealthiest New Yorker appeared on his regular radio show, hosted by his ever-agreeable pal, John Gambling. "It is not the city's business—it is not government's business—to tell companies that they should pay more," he sputtered. He brought himself up short when he realized he had just denounced the basis of all government wage legislation since the Great Depression. "There are federal minimum-wage laws," he quickly added, "and those are fine."

    Moments later, his inner Ayn Rand was back in full control: "The bottom line is the marketplace is the marketplace," he proclaimed.

    So true. In fact, the marketplace being what it is, the minute that a gleaming-new, tax-subsidized food store opens at the armory, the longtime merchants across the street are likely to start going out of business. These are firms employing hundreds of local residents, many at union wages, with benefits—merchants who held on through the worst of the "Bronx Is Burning" years.

    Those were some of the issues that were persuasive to the Bronx's young new borough president, Ruben Diaz Jr., who became an outspoken champion of a "living wage" deal for the armory. Bronx Council members—bitterly divided over the past year—also became united on the issue. This, in turn, inspired Council speaker Christine Quinn, who is eager to shed her reputation as the mayor's often-compliant partner.

    The result, on December 14, was a City Council almost giddy at the prospect of finally defying the mayor. The same council that had largely rolled over for Bloomberg on some 200 previous zoning issues, the same council that cravenly conspired to let him overturn term limits last year, was aboil at the thrill of saying, at long last, "No." You could see it in the smiling, whispered asides as members popped up from their chairs and raced across the aisle to consult with friends and allies. Big Bill de Blasio, who will take over as Public Advocate in a couple of weeks, loped across the room, bending over to murmur encouragement to his troops.

    It was a moment of long-delayed political empowerment that was thrilling to watch. And then, just as quickly, the thrill was gone. Outside on the City Hall steps was a handful of dejected-looking representatives of the city's construction building trades. These days, their recession-battered ranks have a 40 percent unemployment rate. The armory plan would have employed 1,000 of their members, jobs that went up in smoke the minute the Council vote was tallied.

    In the early days of the coalition that organized to win better-paying jobs at the new armory, all of the big unions were happily onboard. Gary LaBarbera, the ex-Teamster who heads the city's Building and Construction Trades Council, signed on to the goals of the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance. So did the building service workers of Local 32BJ, who are playing a steadily more influential role in city politics. But as the vote grew closer and Bloomberg refused to budge, the construction and building service unions peeled off from the coalition to cut their own deals with Related.

    This is how such coalitions often bust apart. At the end of the day, unions are responsible to their own members to make sure they have jobs, and the construction trades have never met a project they didn't like. The joke goes that they would build their own gallows if you let them do it union. As long as there is work to be had, there is nothing better: wages go to $50 an hour, along with deep benefits. On the other hand, for most of the residents in the north Bronx, such union cards are just a dream. Their career paths are more likely to deposit them in one of those part-time, minimum-wage jobs at one of those big stores that Related wanted to create than one pouring the cement used to build it.

    This labor-community divide—with one group of workers played off against another—is one of the oldest and saddest chapters in the city. It is made even more bitter by overlays of race. Construction trades are far more integrated than they once were, but blacks and Latinos still don't get their fair share of the work.

    It was the dream of Stu Appelbaum, the tough head of the retail workers union who helped lead the fight to win better wages at the armory, that the Kingsbridge battle might become a bridge to start healing that divide. It might even have happened if this city had a union leader of enough stature and clout. What we have instead are a group of warlords vigorously patrolling their own turf. And a mayor only too happy to see them feud.

    http://www.villagevoice.com/2009-12-...labor-divide/1

  12. #27
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    So let me get this strait, they wanted the Mayor to make it a law that everyone working at Chic Fil-A and Duane Reed (in the mall), would be guaranteed $10/hr?

    I am SURE that MANY companies would LOVE to move in knowing that they would have to pay EVERY SINGLE WORKER, fomr bus-boy to stock boy, more than what they pay everywhere else in the city.

    What a stupid point of contention.

  13. #28
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Mike's true colors shining through ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Merry View Post

    ... The demand also horrified their friend the mayor ... "It is not the city's business—it is not government's business—to tell companies that they should pay more," he sputtered. He brought himself up short when he realized he had just denounced the basis of all government wage legislation since the Great Depression. "There are federal minimum-wage laws," he quickly added, "and those are fine."

    Moments later, his inner Ayn Rand was back in full control: "The bottom line is the marketplace is the marketplace," he proclaimed.

    So true. In fact, the marketplace being what it is, the minute that a gleaming-new, tax-subsidized food store opens at the armory, the longtime merchants across the street are likely to start going out of business. These are firms employing hundreds of local residents, many at union wages, with benefits—merchants who held on through the worst of the "Bronx Is Burning" years.

  14. #29
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    So now the Armory is Walmart?

    People can't seem to stay on target with this. I agree that Bloomie tripped over his own two feet on that one, but what he SHOULD have said is that it is not up to the government to start playing favorites with neighborhoods over minimum wage requirements just because the city council, in its efforts to either win votes OR to make sure their own interests are taken care of (good or bad), puts such an unusual demand on them.

    BTW, who are these longtime merchants with Union Employees, and what do they pay their guys? When playing the game like this, it is always good to site specifics otherwise we are no better than, again, Walmart and their "save more" campaign.

  15. #30
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    NYU To Focus on Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Plan


    New York University's Wagner School of Public Policy will be the latest organization to take a crack at the development conundrum that is the long-vacant Kingsbridge Armory.

    Since 1995, Wagner has tackled hundreds of public policy issues facing the city as part of its Capstone program, which puts graduate students and faculty members into teams that spend the year working for a client, analyzing an important issue they face and then providing them with a detailed report that includes recommendations.

    This year, one of those teams will have the Armory task force assembled by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. as its client and the redevelopment of the massive, 600,000 square-foot castle on Kingsbridge Road as its project. In a press release, Diaz called the program "highly competitive" and "highly selective."

    John DeSio, a spokesman for Diaz, said this is great news for development prospects at the Armory, which is controlled by the city and has been vacant for more than 15 years. Last year, the City Council (with the strong support and leadership of Diaz) killed a proposal to turn the Armory into a shopping mall because the project didn't include guarantees for living wage jobs. Afterward, Mayor Bloomberg (who supported the mall project), said the Armory would remain vacant for the foreseeable future.

    "Things, they come through this program, they happen," DeSio said in a phone interview.

    Because of this, however, DeSio said, the task force is pushing its time line for coming up with a viable plan for the Armory from the end of this year to April or May of 2011.

    "We think this [program] is worth it," DeSio said.

    full article

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