KARA Applauds City Council For Promoting Responsible Development In Vote To Reject Related's Plans for the Kingsbridge Armory

Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance, Dec 14 2009
Contact: Michael Yellin
Ava Farkas
Council Votes Down Plans for Publicly Subsidized Development That Lacks Community Benefits

New York, NY - The Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA) joined Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. today in applauding the New York City Council's decision to promote responsible development by rejecting the Bloomberg administration's plans for the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory because they did not include a binding Community Benefits Agreement with living wage jobs, first source local hiring, protection of the right of retail workers to join a union without fear or intimidation, community and recreation space, and the exclusion of a supermarket or a big box grocery store.

This is the first time that Mayor Bloomberg has lost a full council vote for one of his development initiatives. The vote was 45-to-1, with one abstention.

"It is no longer an acceptable business model to allow billionaire companies to take major tax breaks to do business in our borough while they create little more than part-time, low wages jobs without benefits or much chance for advancement," said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. "What we wanted all along was to have the Armory developed in such a way that not only the developer and the tenants benefit, but also the people of the borough of the Bronx. What today's vote confirms is that we can no longer support any project that only ensures profits for the developer while leaving the people of the Bronx in poverty."

"Today the Council sent a strong message that economic development has to be good for the community and not just a private developer," said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) and KARA co-convener. "With this vote today, the City Council is saying that the policies of the past do not work and that it's time for developers to live up to their responsibilities to the community. New York needs a development strategy that puts people first, and that begins with the developers guaranteeing the rights of workers to a living wage."

"This is a bittersweet victory," said Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter, KARA leader and Executive Board member of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition. "We want the Armory developed. Unfortunately, the Bloomberg administration chose to kill the project rather than require the developer, the Related Companies, to sign a binding Community Benefits Agreement that guaranteed living wages and other benefits for the community."

In its application for the development, The Related Companies said it would create 1,200 part time, minimum wage jobs with no benefits. Related had received promises of $90 million in public financing through Industrial Development Agency subsidies, tax credits and repairs to the building."

A living wage in New York City is at least $10 an hour plus benefits or $11.50 an hour without benefits.

The struggle around securing living wages at the Kingsbridge Armory has provided a spark for the movement to mandate living wages in all city-subsidized development. Living wage legislation was introduced late last week at the City Council.

Community Benefits Agreements have been negotiated in cities around the country with developers receiving tax dollars and tax exemptions to help underwrite their projects. These agreements have helped developers build profitable projects while guaranteeing good jobs that pay living wages and create community spaces. Of particular concern to many Bronx residents are the types of jobs that will be created.

The Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA) is a large coalition of community groups, churches and unions that seek high road, equitable development for the Kingsbridge Armory. The alliance wants the redevelopment to meet the community's needs for living wage jobs, community space, recreational facilities and schools. City, state and federal officials have endorsed KARA.

Visit www.ourarmory.org