NEW YORK—Hundreds of Bronx residents showed up at City Hall on Tuesday morning for the last public hearing regarding the rezoning of Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx. Organizations said that they will not support the project unless the developer guarantees “living wages.”
The Related Companies is proposing to redevelop the historic Kingsbridge Armory, built in 1917 to house the National Guard, into one of the largest shopping malls in the city.
To assist with the redevelopment, Related will receive city tax benefits of $17.8 million, along with $50 million in tax credits from the state and federal government.
However, more than 20 churches, unions, and community organizations urged the City Council to vote against the rezoning and sale of the Kingsbridge Armory to Related unless it agrees that its future retailers will provide “living wages” to employees.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has joined their cause. “When billionaire developers are accepting tens of millions of dollars in tax benefits to build in our communities, it is not a radical idea to ask that the jobs they create be good jobs, jobs that offer Bronxites a chance to better themselves and provide for their families,” Diaz told the City Council members.
A living wage in New York City is a minimum $10 an hour plus benefits.
Although Related has planned to create 1,200 part time jobs at the city-subsidized “Shop at the Armory” mall, those jobs will be poverty waged with no benefits and will bring in national retail chains to compete against locally owned businesses, said advocacy groups.
Related Companies insisted that if it forces future retail tenants to pay a living wage, no retailer would be willing to move to a location where they would have to pay employees more than if they located elsewhere. Then the development will ultimately fail.
According to the Daily News, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also opposes a living wage requirement for the development, worrying that such a deal would “harm retail development citywide.”
In City Council, Bronx Council member Joel Rivera said that Related's proposed mall is an "economic exploitation project" rather than economic development.
“I refuse to believe development will stop if living wages are mandated,” said Rivera.
Queens Council member Eric Gioia had similar opinion.
“City development is about jobs that will allow people to take care of their families,” said Gioia. “What I am hearing today is that the only way to develop a community is to keep the people poor. As a city, we need to be a leader. We need to do better.”