In that time, the city’s two tabloids, the New York Post and the Daily News, have taken every opportunity to whack at Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. for his opposition to the project, which gave the necessary juice to a community and labor-backed effort to defeat it in the City Council.
Regular readers know where we stand on this, but as long as the editorial boards of the city dailies continue to harp on this, we are compelled to reiterate our position.
For more than a decade, community organizations led by the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition hammered out plans for a remake of the facility that made room for recreation, community programming, small businesses, a movie theater, etc.
Related, the city’s chosen developer, never offered details on what it was going to provide except for retail. Despite this and the clear sense that the Armory would be a mall pure and simple, the community’s only firm request in the end was that people had to be paid a living wage, particularly when the developer was going to receive over $70 million in taxpayer subsidies to remake a public landmark.
It was hardly an outlandish request. Several other municipalities have enacted wage guarantees on development projects benefiting from taxpayer subsidies.
It hasn’t been required in New York City, but, thanks to the Armory battle, living wage requirements are now an issue with wings as legislation is being considered in the City Council. (It won’t pass this year, but it will be back on the docket and a priority in 2011, says Council Majority Leader Joel Rivera.) That’s why all the Manhattan-based big-shots are so mad at Diaz. He picked a big, risky fight and he’s winning.
We might have a little more patience for the tabloid tirades if they ever really gave a whit about the Bronx when it mattered. Where were they when the Yankees took subsidies and local parkland for their stadium, delaying some local replacement parks as much as three years? They were cheerleading the project along.
What have they said about the scandal-plagued water filtration plant that ripped a stadium-sized hole in a local park, costing water rate payers $2 billion more than the original billion-dollar price tag? Right, nothing.
Yes, jobs are critical, but what’s even more critical is laying a foundation of fairness that has long eluded the borough. That includes jobs that pay decent wages and a real role in determining what is done with our precious public property.
Whatever the tabloids say, Diaz helped lay the cornerstone for that foundation, and we applaud him for it.