Taxpayers concerned about government waste should turn their attention to tomorrow's City Council vote on the proposed Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment. The developer of the project, Related Companies, will receive $18 million in direct city and state subsidies. Related will be able to skip out on paying sales taxes, the mortgage recording tax (which goes to funding the cash-poor MTA), and real estate taxes. Plus, the developer will get a discounted price for the purchase of the property and building and will inherit $30 million worth of improvements that the city completed with taxpayer dollars back in 2003.
All of this might be justified if the public could expect considerable benefits from the deal. Job creation is a public benefit, but if the jobs that are created pay a poverty-level wage, the public subsidies are wasted on perpetuating a cycle of poverty that will only cost taxpayers more money.
The City Council should not approve the Kingsbridge Armory project unless the developer guarantees that future retail workers will be paid a living wage. Without this guarantee, the public benefits from the Armory deal will not be great enough to justify the substantial public subsidy, especially at a time of budget crises in Albany and at City Hall.
By looking at wage data for retail workers, we can see that the retail jobs created at the Armory will not be enough for a family to survive without having to enroll in public assistance programs. Based on data from the New York State Department of Labor, the average wage for a worker in clothing and accessories stores in the Bronx is $17,313.
We also know that New York State spends at least $5.2 billion a year to support working families that must rely on public assistance to make ends meet. Using tax dollars to create poverty-level jobs is clearly not an efficient use of public funds. If we look at the effect poverty has on children, in terms of health outcomes and their success at school, the harmful effects of poverty-level jobs is multiplied.
Clearly, we can do better with our tax dollars. We must leverage our scare public resources to create real economic opportunity for working families. Anything less, and the taxpayer is getting the short end of the stick.
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