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Bill to Require Developers to Pay Living Wage for Ensuing Jobs Created by Kingsbridge Armory Revamp
NY Daily News
Frank Lombardi

December 11, 2009
View the Original Article

Even if a deal is struck today on developing the Kingsbridge Armory into a $324-million shopping mall, the "living wage" dispute that threatened to derail it will continue to roil City Hall.

Under a bill introduced Wednesday in the City Council by Oliver Koppell (D-Bronx) and Annabel Palma (D-Bronx), developers and others who benefit from city subsidies for their property deals will have to pay a living wage for the ensuing jobs that are created.

The bill would accomplish by law what community activists and members of the Bronx Council delegation have been trying to impose - for the first time ever in the city - on the Related Companies, the city-chosen developer of the long-vacant Bronx armory.

Backers of the new bill say its passage would avoid future fights like the Kingsbridge Armory battle by making a living wage a citywide mandate rather than targeting one developer as a test case.

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

Those pushing for a living wage, as part of a community benefits agreement with the developer, argued Related was getting "a sweetheart deal" from the city - including $14 million in various tax breaks and exemptions, plus a bargain $5 million purchase price for the city-owned armory.

Such taxpayer-funded largesse should be conditioned on creating more than just marginal-income jobs in the state's poorest borough, according to Bronx officials.

But aides to Mayor Bloomberg and representatives of the Related Companies said a mandated living wage would kill the mall project because potential retail tenants would balk at paying salaries higher than regional competitors.

A possible resolution to the impasse was still being hammered out as of Thursday night between the Bronx delegation and mayoral officials, with consultations with the developer.

Council members are on call for a possible special session today to vote on zoning and other land-use actions required for the project. The deadline for such approvals is Monday.