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Living Wages Fight Lives On
The Riverdale Press

May 27, 2010
View the Original Article

Developers lost out on the chance to build a mall at the Kingsbridge Armory because they wouldn’t guarantee a living wage for workers there.

Future developers may not have a choice.

Oliver Koppell and Annabel Palma, both members of the City Council, introduced a new bill on Tuesday called the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, which would guarantee living wages — defined as $10 an hour with benefits or $11.50 without — for workers on projects that receive a certain amount of government money or taxpayer subsidies, like the Armory development would have.

“I believe that when public subsidies are involved, the people that receive those subsidies should not be paying poverty-level wages,” Mr. Koppell said in a statement. “They should be required to pay a living wage.”

The bill would apply only to future projects.

A fight in City Hall is a near certainty. Though the Council voted to support the living wage proponents in the Armory battle, the mayor is more likely to side with the developers than the workers.

“The mayor has yet to be convinced,” said Mr. Koppell, who said he spoke with the mayor about the bill earlier in the week. “He is concerned about the effects it will have on businesses.”

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who was instrumental in blocking the Armory project, said living wages are necessary for Bronx residents and for workers throughout the city. He held a rally in support of the bill outside City Hall Tuesday morning.

“When developers rely on the taxpayers’ wallets to make their projects work, they must guarantee that the jobs created at that project will offer its employees more than just a part-time, minimum wage job with no benefits,” Mr. Diaz said in a statement. “If you want charity, you must be charitable. If you want a public benefit for your project, your project must benefit the public.”