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Koppell Set to Fight for Living Wage
The Riverdale Press
Aliza Appelbaum

January 6, 2010
View the Original Article

The beginning of the year also marks the beginning of a new City Council term, which means new projects and legislation in the works for the city, the Bronx, and the Riverdale/ Kingsbridge area.

One of the initiatives sparking the most interest in the Bronx is the fight for living wages in New York City, which loomed large during the failed negotiations over the Kingsbridge armory. Living wages are defined as $10 an hour with benefits, or $11.50 without.

Riverdale’s own Councilman Oliver Koppell and Councilwoman Annabel Palma, who represents Bronx district 18, have sponsored legislation that aims to guarantee living wages throughout the city.

“I’m sure it’s going to be a struggle,” Mr. Koppell said. “I doubt that the Bloomberg administration is ready to accept the concept. They’ll probably resist it.”

The bill will come before the Contracts Committee for a hearing in February, Mr. Koppell said. Before that hearing, he and Ms. Palma have commissioned a study of various living wage guarantees from other states, to see how those mandates have been accepted and implemented, he said. Among the aspects being studied is whether the living wage would apply solely to publicly subsidized ventures or more broadly.

“We want to be prepared to show that this kind of requirement is not unusual and not unprecedented,” Mr. Koppell said. “We would like a fighting chance to convince the mayor.”

In the meantime, Mr. Koppell said, members of Council have notified him of their support, including Councilwoman Letitia James of Brooklyn’s 35th district, the current chair of the Contracts Committee, though that could change when the new term begins.

So far he has received “considerable support,” he said, adding that he expected most of the Bronx delegation to be on board as well.

Also in the new term, fresh faces have joined the Council, including Councilman Fernando Cabrera, who represents a thin sliver of the Riverdale/ Kingsbridge Area and who beat out incumbent Maria Baez in a hardfought primary battle.

Mr. Cabrera worked behind the scenes on the Armory deal despite the fact that his term had not yet officially begun.

Greg Faulkner, who left his post as chairman of the Bronx’s Community Board 7 to work as Mr. Cabrera’s chief of staff, said he knows the Councilman will represent the district well.

“We needed to get someone who’s really going to get out there and do the work,” Mr. Faulkner said. “[He will be] fighting for issues that are important in the community.”

The environment will also be an issue for the city in the current term. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC has several environmental goals for 2010, including an initiative aimed at making most buildings more energy efficient.

The City Council will be working with the mayor’s office on green initiatives, Mr. Koppell said.

“All the things we can do to encourage clean air and clean water, we will,” Mr. Koppell said.