In a blow to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the City Council Monday shot down a planned $310 million shopping mall in the Bronx after the administration and the developer rejected calls for a living wage requirement.
The council voted 45-1 to deny tax breaks and other incentives to the Related Companies for the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge armory, a landmark building that has been vacant for more than 10 years.
“It’s a win for the Bronx community and it’s a win for democracy in the city,” said Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside). “The council finally stood up to the mayor.”
Bloomberg blasted the vote, calling it “disappointing and irrational.”
“We made clear we would never add mandatory wage requirements, which would make the project unviable,” Bloomberg, who is in Copenhagen for the climate summit, said in a statement.
Opponents of the plan wanted to require that all of the roughly 1,200 employees of the future tenants of the armory be paid at least $10 an hour. The minimum wage in New York is $7.25 an hour
“Retail jobs pay poverty level wages and without these types of guarantees, city taxpayers really end up paying twice: first, the subsidy to the developer, and then for public assistance for the workers who don’t earn enough to make ends meet,” said John Petro, an analyst for the Drum Major Institute.
A spokeswoman for Related, Joanna Rose, blamed “outside groups” for the project’s defeat.
“This decision undermines the integrity of the public approvals process and threatens the future of sound economic development in the Bronx and other boroughs,” said Rose.
The debate stirred intense passion on both sides, as members of the Bronx council delegation, along with labor leaders, negotiated for months before insisting that the wage requirement was a deal breaker.
Though several council members expressed reservations about killing the project, the legislative body almost always defers to local officials on land use matters and the lopsided vote followed that pattern.