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Controversial 'Living Wage' Bill to get Hearing in April, says City Council Speaker Christine Quinn
New York Daily News
Erin Einhorn

March 7, 2011
View the Original Article

A controversial bill requiring a "living wage" for workers in city-subsidized developments is finally getting a hearing after a year of legislative oblivion.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has prevented the union-backed measure from taking the crucial step for months, but her office said Monday that a hearing is in the works.

"We are looking at April for a hearing, though no specific date has been set," said Quinn spokeswoman Maria Alvarado.

She added that Quinn has "not yet taken a position on the issue."

The hearing does not assure that the bill will go to a vote.

Quinn last year granted hearings on a bill backed by most Council members that would have forced companies to pay workers for sick time - but Quinn ultimately refused to let it go to a vote, saying it would negatively impact small businesses.

The hearing on the living wage measure comes after sponsors amended their bill to exempt "mom and pop" shops from the requirements.

Larger employers in city-funded projects would have to pay at least $10 an hour with benefits or $11.50 without them - wages far exceeding the state's $7.25 an hour minimum wage.

"If we're providing a city subsidy to a project, we can at least expect that the project is going to generate jobs that will pay a decent wage and the minimum wage is just not a decent wage," said bill sponsor Oliver Koppell (D-Bronx).

The measure faces heavy opposition from developers who say they won't be able to secure tenants if store owners have to pay workers more than their competitors do.

Mayor Bloomberg opposes the bill, saying it would drive up the city's economic development costs and prevent new investment in city neighborhoods.

Quinn, a Democrat, has largely avoided confrontations with Bloomberg.

As she prepares a run for mayor in 2013, she's been careful not anger the city's business community.

Supporters of the bill hailed the hearing as a good sign for their cause.

"At least it shows that she's willing to have the Council consider the proposal and it's not being deep-sixed at this point," Koppell said.

"There's a strong groundswell of support from significant elements within the council and the city. I frankly think it's going to be difficult to resist a vote on this."