Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Living Wage Wedge

Opponents of a living wage are now trying to use the Willets Point development as a weapon in their efforts to kill the measure in its crib. As Crain's reports:

"Opponents of the measure are promising a fight. They've advertised in local newspapers and a dozen plan to testify at the council hearing. “It's no surprise that the same union which helped kill 2,000 good jobs at the Kingsbridge Armory is back on the bandwagon now,” said a spokesman for a coalition of business groups that oppose the bill. The opponents say it would make it impossible to develop retail projects in the outer boroughs. An insider at one firm that bid for the first phase of the Willets Point redevelopment said the project “would be unleaseable,” and therefore unbuildable, if the living-wage ordinance passes."

Now many of these opponents-looking no doubt at the fundraising opportunity derived from fronting for the big real estate interests-are local chambers of commerce. What strikes us about this is that these chambers are supposed to be representing the neighborhood businesses-you know those small retailers that are the backbone of the NYC economy.

For their edification those 2,000 jobs would have come at the expense of the retailers on Kingsbridge and Fordham Roads-all done courtesy of the subsidizing from Mike Bloomberg's crony capitalism program for economic (aggrandizement) of his billionaire real estate buddies. And that 2,000 number is risible since the Gateway Mall built on the gravesite of the Bronx Terminal Market was supposed to generate over 3,000 jobs but yielded around 900.

But it seems that if the living wage is applied to Willets Point than it would be the death knell of the project-at least according to the vaunted (and self interested) "insider" that Crain's finds to courageously comment on the issue: "Any project that has a large retail component will not be able to get over the burden with national retailers,” the insider said."

Wonder who that was? Perhaps Jesse Masyr the lawyer for the Related Companies whose Armory project was bitch slapped by the RWDSU. In our view if the Willets Point project would be doomed without a ban on living wage than that's just another good reason why the development should be relegated to the dustbin of NYC history. It is, after all, the retail mall on the site that creates most of the unmitigatable traffic for the project.

If NYC is going to squander hundreds of millions-or in the case of Willets Point, billions-of dollars to take away property from the little people to give to the well heeled interests, than the peons working at the site need to be paid a living wage-period! If that can't be done than the entire development needs to be re-thought. It has become an intolerable burden on NYC tax payers in these recessionary times.