NYC Economic Development Corporation reps startled neighborhood defenders last month, predicting that Related Companies’ plan for a Kingsbridge Armory shopping mall will begin public review soon.
According to EDC spokeswoman Janel Patterson, the city hopes to submit the plan before the end of May. That could pose a problem for Community Board 7 and the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance; CB7 and KARA are racing to secure a community benefits agreement.
Once public review begins, CB7 will have 60 days to weigh in. It will be difficult for the volunteer board to vet the armory plan and negotiate a benefits agreement at the same time. CB7 and KARA need to secure a benefits agreement for the neighborhood before public review, CB7 Greg Faulkner said. The board will break for the summer in June.
“We want to get an agreement done before [public review],” Faulkner said. “Once the plan moves on to the borough president and the city council, there goes our leverage.”
At a Kingsbridge Armory meeting on April 29, Related lawyer Jesse Masyr put the kibosh on KARA’s chief demand: guaranteed “living” wage jobs – $10 per hour plus benefits. KARA’s remaining demands include recreation space, opportunities for Bronx entrepreneurs, an environmentally responsible design, and jobs for Community District 7 and Community District 8 residents. Related is pro living wage, Masyr said. But the developer cannot afford to impose a living wage scale on potential Kingsbridge Armory tenants – stores that offer minimum wage to Bronxites elsewhere.
“Living wage is a non-starter, a death sentence,” Masyr said. “Look out the window [at the abysmal economy]. We are taking a huge risk at Related.”
KARA member Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter is disappointed. Related hopes to build a “poverty wage” shopping mall, she said. If Related’s plan is approved, the developer will reap more than $60 million in tax breaks. In 2007, before the economic crisis hit, CD7 had an unemployment rate of 6.9 percent.
“[Related] expects us to sit down and shut up,” Pilgrim-Hunter said. “We won’t. If we need to wait for another developer to actually invest in the community, we will.”
According to Pilgrim-Hunter, KARA, CB7 and Related are close to a compromise. Community space remains an issue. KARA wants Related to reserve 60,000 sq. feet at $10 per sq. foot. Masyr has offered 27,000 sq. feet, all in the armory head house. The head house is inconvenient, CB7 district manager Fernando Tirado said. According to Masyr, it’s the most attractive part of the armory. Related will fit out the head house for neighborhood groups, he said. Masyr wants KARA to find a group ready to pay rent and occupy the space.