In a move rarely seen in The Bronx lately, an elected official is standing up for the creation of good jobs and accountable development. Newly elected
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
has voted no on a land use proposal to build a
inside the Kingsbridge Armory because the developer refused to sign a community benefits agreement.
This must come as a shock to
, which plans to develop the mall and has gotten subsidies and sweetheart real estate deals from the city in the past. Related was awarded the contract to purchase the armory from the mayoral-controlled
Economic Development Corporation
for the bargain basement price of $5 million. The armory is a landmarked building that spans an entire city block, has a new roof, and is directly across the street from a subway and bus lines.
The city seemed to move in the right direction in 2006 by involving community leaders in developing a Request for Proposal and including language that applicants supporting a living wage provision for the permanent jobs associated with the project will be viewed favorably. But after that the community hasn’t been involved.
Diaz’s vote doesn’t mean the proposal can’t happen; the project now moves through the city’s 60-day
labyrinthine land-use approval process
that includes hearings and votes by the City Planning Commission and the City Council. If other elected officials follow Diaz’s lead, the city could leverage the subsidies to bring Related back to table with the community and still hammer out an agreement.
For nearly a decade the
Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition
advocated for community use of the armory. In 2005 the group joined with the Retail, Wholesale, Department Store Union to create the
Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance
(KARA), which called for a project that creates living wage jobs, promotes retail that
doesn’t compete with long-time business
and builds much-needed community, educational and recreational space for neighborhood youth.
The Borough President’s stance comes not a moment too soon. Unfettered, subsidized development has grown rampant in The Bronx:
l (developed by Related) near
Water Filtration Plant
have not brought promised jobs, have run far over budget and/or have moved forward in the land use process under the guise of
fake Community Benefit Agreements
Kudos to Diaz for standing up for his constituents and hopefully setting a new standard that won’t allow
subsidizing mega developments
to come at the expense of locally owned stores and diminished wages, taxes and jobs.