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Living Wage Report No Surprise to Critics
The Riverdale Press
Adam Wisnieski

May 11, 2011
View the Original Article

Nine months and $1 million later, the city says a living wage bill would stifle development and increase “extreme poverty.”

On Monday, the Economic Development Corporation released a 44-page summary of its report outlining the impact of implementing Councilman Oliver Koppell-sponsored living wage legislation for development projects that receive taxpayer subsidies.

Boston-based Charles River Associates was paid $1 million to study the impact of a living wage mandate and concluded that implementing the bill would result in 33,561 New Yorkers getting wage increases and 5,896 losing their jobs. In the Bronx, 6,017 people would see a raise while 1,067 would be forced out of work, according to the report.

“I don’t agree with many of the assumptions in the report and I certainly don’t agree with the conclusion of the substantial negative effect. Their own statistics don’t really prove the negative conclusions,” Mr. Koppel said in an interview.

Many of the legislation’s advocates are not surprised with the report’s findings because they believe the study was conducted in order to bolster the mayor’s foregone conclusion.

“I think it’s a study that was biased from the beginning,” said Mr. Koppell.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who Mr. Koppell says inspired him to sponsor the bill, immediately released a statement blasting the report.

“We have known all along exactly what this report would say, so I am not surprised,” he wrote in a press release.

“Not only did the City choose a company that is hostile to the idea of a ‘living wage’ to conduct this study, but the mayor has made it crystal clear for months that he does not support this bill. The mayor wasted $1 million of taxpayer funds on this study, simply to provide trumped-up evidence for their pre-determined conclusions on the ‘Fair Wages for New Yorkers’ Act,’” it continued.

The city’s report was released on Monday, three days before a City Council hearing on the bill, which is set for Thursday, May 12, at 1 p.m.

In late 2009, Mr. Diaz and Mayor Michael Bloomberg battled over a development proposal for the Kingsbridge Armory. Mr. Bloomberg supported a mall that would be developed by the Related Companies, but Mr. Diaz argued that development projects receiving taxpayer subsidies should be mandated to offer “living wage jobs” — defined as paying at least $10 an hour with benefits or $11.50 without.

The plan fell through when the City Council voted against the plan and shot down the mayor’s veto.

Mr. Koppell and Councilwoman Annabel Palma introduced the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act in May 2010. The bill would guarantee living wages for workers on projects that receive a certain amount of government money or taxpayer subsidies.

While some of the loudest voices on the issue have come from advocates and church groups in support of the legislation, opponents recently formed a coalition to work toward its defeat.

Crain’s New York reported last week that more than a dozen groups “ranging from small business owners and supermarket operators to major real estate developers and builders of affordable housing” formed the coalition to defeat the bill they believe would be harmful to business.

Twenty-nine council members currently co-sponsor the bill, which was amended and reintroduced to the council by Mr. Koppell and Councilwoman Annabel Palma in January.