With the Bronx City Council delegation coalescing around Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.'s push for living wage requirements and a strong community benefits agreement as part of the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory, other members from the outer boroughs are also starting to express their support.
On Monday night, during an interview on "BronxTalk," Queens Council member and Comptroller-elect John Liu told host Gary Axelbank that he supported the inclusion of a living wage requirement for retail tenants at a revamped Armory mall.
"We want to make sure development deals [like the Armory project] create decent paying jobs for Bronxites," Liu said. He added later that a strong community benefits agreement deal like the one Diaz has proposed would "set the standard for Bronxites and the rest of the city as well."
The problem, he said, is that workers in the Bronx and the rest of the city aren't getting paid enough to live on. "The concept of living wage is that minimum wage isn't sustainable for any families or any working class people."
Related has repeatedly said a living wage requirment would essentially kill the project because the developer wouldn't be able to attract tenants with those types of restrictions in place.
But Liu said the requirement should not be a deal-breaker because Related is getting millions in tax breaks and is buying the Armory for well below market value.
"[Living wage] is not an imposition on the private sector because it only comes into play when companies, like Related, are getting a large accomodation from the city," Liu said.
In the end, he thinks a deal will get hammered out before the Council votes sometime in Decemeber.
In a phone interview today with Norwood News reporter Alex Gibbons, Brooklyn Council member Charles Barron said he supported Diaz's efforts in negotiating a strong benefits agreement that would include living wage.
Barron, who, like Liu, is on the Council's land use committee, which will be looking at the merits of the project next Tuesday during a public hearing, said that such an agreement would amount to a revolution in New York City. Although he said he couldn't tie his vote to (or make it contingent upon) the signing of a benefits agreement, he said, "it would set a positive precedent...it's the right way to go."
With Council members lining up in support of Diaz's living wage push, it will be interesting to see if Mayor Bloomberg "goes to bat for Related" and tries to squash this precent-setting proposal, as one "Council insider" told the Daily News' Bob Kappstatter earlier this week.