Monday, December 14, 2009

Armory a No-Go in First Two Votes of the Day

The Zoning and Franchise and Land Use Committees have both voted no on Related's proposal to redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory.

The full Council will be voting later on today, but it's expected that will be a no-go as well.

Jobs? Who needs 'em! Certainly not the borough with the highest unemployment rate...nope, no sirree. You can shove those jobs up your ass, Related! We're busy gaining great economic strides here in the Bronx by outsourcing our retail and food shopping to the stores up in Westchester.

For coverage live from City Hall, check over at Bronx News Network.



Gregory Lobo Jost said...

I'm sure you guys are bummed about the vote, but I really think Jordan's retrospective helps put the vote into the right perspective.

Bronx politicians will take some heat for this, but you didn't see any unemployed people organizing a "poverty wage job better than no job" campaign. In the end, the Bronx pols stood up for what the people demanded.

(I love that I could just write that sentence!)

Boogiedowner said...

Thanks for commenting, Greg. We are unsatisfied by the vote, but I am not sure for what the Bronx pols stood up? To lengthen the vacancy of the Armory? To keep people from working? To keep Bronxites shopping in Westchester?

It's just hard for BoogieDowner to celebrate this vote. I think if the minimum wage is a "poverty wage," then KARA and the City Council and poverty/housing advocates like yourself need to lobby Albany and Washington.

What is your (or KARA or Ruben Diaz's) ultimate goal for the Armory? What next?

Those celebrating are celebrating the status quo of unemployment; those celebrating are celebrating the cementing of Bronx hostility to potential investors. It just saddens me that 2,200 people that could have been employed will now still be out of work.

Gregory Lobo Jost said...

Just curious -- do you happen to have any data on what percentage of Bronxites have cars and/or and shop in Westchester?

The minimum wage question is complex, as it was never designed as a base to make a living on. Yet, as we lose manufacturing jobs and other skilled labor types of jobs, more and more people have no choice but to rely on jobs that were never meant to raise a family on. This is a larger problem that needs a solution, and the Armory is a test case for changing the status quo going into the future.

As for your question of lobbying Washington, real change often starts at the local level and moves upwards. This has the potential to lead to broader changes in the City, State and even nation.

Finally, why can't any of this sadness/dissatisfaction be directed at the other end of the bargaining table? They could have stepped up to the table and made this happen. Then we'd all be celebrating now.

Guywithacause said...

Gregory if the Bronx Pols stood up for what the people demanded, then I would agree with the "NO" vote for Related. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

First the Politicians stood with Morton Williams and tried to kill the project so that no supermarket would be a future tenant in the redeveloped space. That was not standing for what the people wanted, that is protecting Morton William's profits at the expense of what the community wanted. They did in fact want a supermarket, and it was the City Council/Community Board that specifically requested one due to community's needs.

Morton Williams fabricated "community" outrage by forcing employees (or telling them they would lose their jobs) to stage phony protests outside the Armory and disrupting council meetings. Of course Politicians were standing right alongside.

Then after this "success", Morton Williams and other businesses jumped on board to add the "Living wage" provision just to be sure there would be ZERO competition against their businesses/profits. It should be noted, no other "local" businesses in the area have, ever plan to have, or will be required to have, a "living wage" requirement, but they want to be sure every business in the Armory has one. Kinda strange ay?

So while the "living wage" requirement is demanded by a very few, they certianly don't demand it of themselves, or of the local businesses that employ significantly more people in the area.

Seems counterproductive/illogical/hypocritical to kill the redevelopment of the Armory when a more significant impact would be to have ALL businesses in the community have the "living wage" requirement. But that would never happen. Why? Because the businesses claim they would be "forced out of business" if they are required to have a "living wage." who else has said that repeatedly? Oh that's right...Related said businesses would not lease space if they were forced to have the "living wage" requirement. And that's exactly what the local businesses have said also..yet it is ONLY being pushed for Related. Strange ay?

Guywithacause said...

At the end of the day, the Politicians will not take any heat. They will brand this to the uneducated masses (their base) as a "win" for the Bronx and the community. They kept the "evil" (and no doubt "white") corporation out, and saved the community from these "horrible jobs."

What's the reality? The Armory will remain vacant and a blight on the community for a few more decades, there will be NO jobs for anyone, NO retail for the community, NO amenities/public space for the community, and NO choices for the community.

And who is benefitting from another 20 years of a vacant Armory. You guessed it! Morton Williams and the other "local" businesses that ONLY pay minimum wage, and ONLY offer cashier/stockboy/janitorial jobs to the community. They now have their profits secured for another 2 competition = higher prices/less selection. This has been the main problem in the community, which is why the Armory redevelopment was so important, as well as the potential new supermarket.

So when you claim that Bronx pols stood up for what the people demanded, you are sadly mistaken. Bronx pols stood up for what Morton Williams (and other businesses that donate handsomely) demanded at the expense of the community.

I am convinced, however, that this deal is not truly dead. And all the hype and posturing by the few ignoramouses and politicians will quickly turn into a pathetic realization/embarassment that the community is now left with NOTHING. And only at that point, will the negotiations be realistic and reasonable so as to make this redevelopment happen.

Boogiedowner said...

I do not have any data on the Westchester issue (do you?), but there seems to be anecdotal evidence (from BD readers) that many of us Broxites shop in Westchester. I know we do. Buying rotten, expired products, or spending an insane amount of money on produce just doesn't appeal to me - call em crazy.

The minimum, as you have stated, is/was not intended to be a wage on which a person can raise a family. Minimum wage jobs are meant to introduce or reintroduce people to the workforce.

Beyond this argument about minimum wage, what do you (and KARA and Ruben Diaz Jr.) want at the Armory?

What are you all celebrating today? The seizing of economic engines? The refusal of 2,200 jobs? The rejection of $300million+ in investment dollars? I apologize if I cannot celebrate these things.

I know there is a lot of ideological rhetoric on your side of this issue ("top-down development," "poverty wages," "subsidy giveaways," etc.) but job creation, added amenities, and future tax revenue for the City (and the Bronx) seem like good things to me.

Guywithacause said...

Gregory I agree that more and more people are forced to rely on jobs that were never meant to raise a family on. But the answer is not to selectively apply a higher standard which ultimately kills progress (yes this development would be progress).

Education and increasing the skills of the workforce are the ONLY answers, but politicians are too busy begging for votes to make the tough decisions. What happened during the Armory was not the community taking a stand, it was a few businesses holding this deal hostage, and the Politicians grandstanding to make themselves lookg good no matter what the outcome.

I do agree that change comes from the bottom up, but this was not change that was happening. It was a few businesses working behind the scenes, manipulating the public, calling in favors for their hefty donations to politicians, and orchestrating the death of this project so as to secure their profits. That is not change, that is business as usual.

And as for "the other end of the bargaining table," we already know, as the other "local" businesses in the community will tell you: Forcing a "living wage" requirement will kill business (which is why they pay minimum wage), or rather shun any Tenants from wanting to lease space at the Armory, making this Armory a pointless and wasteful venture.

I agree that the community has been driving this development for many many years, but it wasn't until the local businesses felt threatened that we saw the "outrage" and the Armory became such a "huge rallying cry." Don't be fooled, the community wants this deal, local businesses do not.

Gregory Lobo Jost said...

Funny, I have this strange memory of a rally last month with a thousand people at it, all cheering, "2 4 6 8, Related must negotiate!"

I guess that's not the will of the people. You're right, I should have sided with the bloggers backed by anecdotal evidence instead.

I understand your feelings about morton williams, but you are missing the larger context of this as a neighborhood struggle. Read Jordan's retrospective -- this is much bigger than the supermarket issue, and much bigger than the current job situation.

BoogieDowner said...

I've read Jordan's piece. I read it this morning as soon as he posted it.

Do YOU have any data about the number of Bronxites that shop outside of the Bronx? Or who settle for over prices and/or less than fresh products?

What is this a neighborhood struggle against? Employment?

No one has answered the question of, "what now?"

What do the entities that killed the Armory project want to happen (realistically) there?

Guywithacause said...

That 1,000 people were not representative of the community.. they were a mix of Morton Williams employees, other "local" business employees (all of whom were TOLD to be there), as well as the usual Democratic talking heads that come out whenever the Democrats want them to. That's not the will of the people, that's business/politics in full swing.

But Gregory why take my word for it, you live in the community RIGHT? I don't think you should side with bloggers, you should side with the community residents. Surely since you live there you know what they want, RIGHT? You have been to the community board meetings as well, where the community has been pushing for this development for years, as well as a new supermarket, RIGHT?

As someone who is of the community, why would I read about this history of the neighborhood struggle for the Armory. I was part of were too, RIGHT?

You are certainly right that this is bigger than a supermarket or jobs. It's about the will of the people being voided so as to benefit a few businesses and politicians, which has been the history of the Bronx for about 35 years. But you know that because you have been here at least that long, RIGHT?

The what now is quite simple. NOTHING. All of the posturing and "anger" was all a bluff, because there was no other option, and everyone knew this. The problem is, those driving the "anger" didn't care that there is no option, because they stand to benefit from an empty Armory. Now who could that be....

At the end of the day, this is an embarassment to the Bronx and the community. It demonstrates what happens when you are NOT working for the community, because we are NOT better off having this site vacant and abandoned for 20+ more years, we are NOT better off with 2,000 fewer jobs, we are NOT better off without another supermarket, we are NOT better off without the ability to shop in our community, and we as a city are NOT better off with NO tax revenue/income from this site.

Unless of course you believe we are better off as a community with the site vacant and abandoned. if so, please explain.

Gregory Lobo Jost said...

I live here and work here and send my kids to school here, yet I haven't met anyone in the neighborhood who was for this deal without a living wage requirement. Only Manhattan-based editorials as well as posts and comments on this blog have disagreed.

Guywithacause said...

Gregory you are full of it. The "living wage" requirement was NEVER part of the redevelopment of the Armory going back to 20 years ago when the community first took on this project. It was NEVER a stipulation for any potential developer over that course of time, and only recently injected in the conversation by the "local" businesses looking to kill the deal.

The politicians jumped on it as it was politically "popular" to sell the "living wage" as the answer to the community's ills, and any NEW business not onboard will not be allowed in the community. This was all orchestrated by the "local" businesses to ensure this deal dies because they knew full well Related would not accept it, no business would.

And for the record, I asked you whether you are FROM the community, and whether you have been involved in the community board meetings over the last year (nevermind the last 20). If you had, you would note that the "living wage" requirement was NEVER part of the deal...but now suddenly out of nowhere it appeared. Why is that? It did NOT come from the community, the community board, the city council, and most certainly not the Mayor's office. Strange indeed ay?

I recommend you stop reading blogs, Manhattan editorials, and dismiss the phony "community outrage" staged by Morton Williams and other "local" businesses. The community, for the past 20 years, WANTED the redevelopment of the Armory, and it WANTED amenities that were useful to the community like a Supermarket. Now the Supermarket was removed and NO redevelopment is happening because the "living wage" requirement was instituted to kill this deal on behalf of these "local" businesses.

By the way, if you are gunning for a "living wage" for Tenants that move into the Armory, why not have ALL "local" businesses in the community pay a "living wage" because as of now they pay MINIMUM wage. Hypocritical ain't it?

Boogiedowner said...

What about Community Board 7's full support of the project? Is the community board (and many of its members) not considered to be a part of the community?

Gregory Lobo Jost said...

Wow. Who knew there were prerequisites for having an opinion on a blog?

I would like to state for the record that I was not born in the Bronx. Like many of our neighbors, I was born outside of the country. According to the U.S. Census, it's more than a third of CB7 residents, though that number is on the upward swing.

Also according to the the census, Bronx residents spend the highest percent of income on rent. It's typical in the west Bronx for a household to spend 50% of their income on rent.

It's also worth noting that the median income in 2008 was exactly the same that it is was in 1999 -- $28,000 for our fine borough. That does not take into account inflation. In real dollars median income has dropped about 23%. It also means disposible income is extremely low here.

Rents, however, continue to rise. Since the costs of running a building keeps going up, keeping rents level would mean buildings would not be able to be maintained, let alone pay skyrocketing water rates (thanks to that fine development of a filtration plant), rising fuel costs and higher tax assessments. The true root of the affordability problem is that wages have not kept pace with rents and the general cost of living in the Bronx. If wages continue to stagnate, more buildings and homes will go into foreclosure.

If NYC does not remain affordable for people working service sector jobs, they will have to leave the city and we will become another resort town where the workers all commute long distances to low paying jobs. This is not the type of City NYC has historically been and should not become. You may disagree with me on this last point, but then there's no point to this discussion. If the Bronx become gentrified then NYC as we have known it ceases to exist.

Back to the issue at hand. Rents are not going to go down. But wages can theoretically go up. We obviously disagree about whether the Armory is the place to demand higher wages for our community, and I doubt our opinions on this will change. Since there is no other resource like it, I say it's the perfect place to fight over and not roll over for a lousy mall. That's my opinion and I'm entitled to it. It hasn't the least to do with any supermarket issue.

Gregory Lobo Jost said...

Back to some of your points, Mr. G. W. Acause. (I would, however, ask that we keep the tone civil. I haven't questioned anyone's motives or their origins or interest in the community. I even think I started this discussion off in a friendly manner. )

This discussion is not about me. In fact, I'll come out and say the armory is not my main issue (I'm not hiding anything). the community board is definitely not the vehicle i use to be involved in the neighborhood. I have lots of other ways to be involved (though this feels like a one-way street of proving one's worthiness).

Like I said, I live in the neighborhood, I work in the neighborhood, I helped start and continue to help run the Norwood Food Co-op CSA, giving hundreds of residents access to local organic produce for a decent price during the past six years, without sending profits to big developers or grocery store owners. (We even accept EBT, which would come in handy for the $7.25/hr retail workers at your ideal armory.)

I have no control over the fine (unelected) people on the community board. Why would I make up my mind on this issue based on their divided vote? Are they somehow accountable to neighborhood residents? I thought the only way they could get tossed was by the BP (see CB4 and Yankee Stadium opponents).

So, if I understand your main point, G W Acause, KARA's stance on the living wage piece has nothing to do with community need or principle, but entirely with Morton Williams? If this is your thesis, please provide some evidence other than coincidental timing. I know a lot of people involved in KARA, none of whom are connect to MW. This is not the impression I get from them. I also have good reason to believe they are not lying to me. Maybe you have inside information.

I also know that the vast majority of people at the 1,000 person rally (myself included) came from local churches and parishes and had nothing to do with Morton Williams. Are we just all suckers? If so, how did MW take over KARA and the Northwest Bronx Coalition?

P.S. ErLu -- I asked if you had any data on Bronxites with cars and shopping in Westchester. I'm disappointed that you threw it back at me even though it's your point, not mine. I supplied the rent and income data. Now it's your turn to give me something emprical. You got the same Jesuit education I got -- let's keep the workload balanced!

Boogiedowner said...

Just a few points of clarifications

1) You said BD and its readers were the ONLY people to disagree with the Armory redevelopment; the fact that CB7 supported proves that isn't true.

2) I applaud your efforts with he Norwood Food Coop, but ErLu was not able to afford it. It's very expensive when you break down the amount of food one gets for the price.I make more than $11.50/hr and couldn't afford to maintain my membership

3)How can I run a study about the tax revenue lost to Westchester? I am not a professional demographer. It's easy to demand information and data that isn't out there. Clearly many Bronxites have cars (have you ever tried to park in Norwood or Bedford Park?). And many shop in Westechester. Providing a lot of information about rents, median income, and your nativity in a foreign land doesn't really clear up any of the issues of lost tax revenue. Yes my wife and I did receive a top notch education from Fordham (as you did), so please don't cut and paste from some housing essay or editorial , when we're discussing the armory and shopping in Westchetser.

And again, no one has answered my question: What now? Will Jordan be writing a new piece chronicling the nest 10 years of vacancy and missed opportunities at the Armory?

Guywithacause said...

Ok Greg here are my responses:

1-I ask you whether you were involved in the community board because this is where all of the conversations for the Armory redevelopment have been played out over the past 20 years. The Community Board is the RIGHT PLACE to get information, because they have been crafting this for some time with a number of other groups. It is one of the ONLY places where the community has a voice, and the place where issues like the Armory are discussed and resolved. As a a result, they ARE accountable to the community. They can be divided at times as well, so what? That's a good thing and normal.

2-KARA only recently entered the debate with the "living wage" requirement. Again, had you been involved from the beginning at the community board level, you would know that the "living wage" requirement came out of nowhere, and was NOT born out of the community, community board, city council, nor Mayor's office. So where did it come from?

Furthermore,the supermarket IS something that was born from the community, and supported by everyone, community board, city council, etc., yet somehow that was killed. Why? Both these issues come to the same small group that was orchestrating this collosal failure: Morton Williams and the other "local" businesses.

Only when they felt their profits were at risk did they enter the debate, and THEY ensured the demise of the sorely needed, community requested, supermarket. It was at this same time they injected the "living wage" notion, which they "worked" with other groups (KARA) to craft and impose. They had the Mayor jump onboard, as it was a politically easy thing to sell to the unwashed masses, even if it was not in the community's best didn't matter. It satisfied Rubencitos donors ("local" businesses) because it ultimately ensured a dead deal/no supermarket, and it had political mileage for his own benefit.

3-That 1,000 people "protest" may have had the best intentions..who doesn't want more money? But it was infact ORCHESTRATED and COORDINATED by Morton Williams and the other "local" businesses and elected officials to make it APPEAR that their was a mandate, when in fact there was NONE. The community wanted one thing (like a supermarket), and the orchestrated protest wanted another ("living wage" to kill the deal), and that is what became the focus and rallying point of this development, and shifted the argument permanently.

4-I don't want to get into a discussion about raising rents/cost of living. But I will say that rents do go down, and have recently. It is normal for cost of licing to go up, otherwise we would still be paying 5 cents for popcorn and $20 for rent. NYC, or rather, Bloomberg, undertsands the need for affordable housing, which is why he is halfway to his 165,000 units of affordable housing goal. It is also why he has invested huge amounts into the Bronx, and is trying to cultivate more business here, so that WE can live BETTER, want to stay, and move ourselves, and our community forward.

Gregory Lobo Jost said...

ErLu - point one was only people i knew, not people in general. point two i would disagree on, but i think you only did the winter share which is a side product for hard-core foodies. we have one of the most affordable CSAs in the City and we do take EBT. point three - i understand limitations on doing research, but you were asking me to come up with data when it wasn't my point. the data i did include was meant to show larger community needs. i'm sure you're not excited by how many 99 cent stores we have around here, but they are here because people shop at them because they have very little disposable income. my point is that there are very deep problems that one may want to consider when looking at uses of the armory. also, i don't cut and paste from my reports (give me a little bit of credit), though the ideas are still there in my head. the stats i brought up were all about the context of community need.

guy - you have some interesting points on the history of the armory debate. is there any way to get a full in depth investigative report done on what you are claiming? as for rents going down, this does not happen in rent stabilized buildings, which account for about 95% of the rentals in CB7. While Bloomberg's housing plan is very positive, it doesn't help people who live in unsubsidized housing where the affordability crisis gets worse every year. That problem will only be solved by rising incomes.

now back to what i should really be working on!

Guywithacause said...

Greg..I believe there will no doubt be some shortly, if there aren't any already. Regarding rents coming down, I was speaking for rents in general, and not just in this community board. Yes rent stabilized units do not technically go down, however, if the raises are below inflation, or there are no increases, the net effect is the same: a declining rent in real terms.