Report: Kingsbridge Mall Deal a Loser for the City Without "Living Wage"

Activists want the proposed Kingsbridge Armory shopping center in The Bronx to mandate a "living wage" ($10 an hour with benefits, $11.50 without) for workers there. Sympathetic city councilmembers on the zoning committee threaten to make trouble, and the city tries to strike a deal with them. A vote is expected tomorrow.

Kingsbridge developer Related Companies says neither they nor anyone else could make money with such a requirement. Today the Drum Major Institute has released a report citing the countervailing examples of other U.S. cities which require workers at chain stores -- in some cases, whether they receive city subsidies or not -- to be paid government-set living wages.

The DMI also claims that New York will, under the current arrangement, come out a loser under its current deal with Related.

The report by DMI analyst John Petro says the $13.8 million in city subsidies Related will receive -- including a $7.8 million real estate tax exemption over four and a half years -- coupled with the $30 million New York spent cleaning up the Armory in 2003, and other emoluments, compare badly to the financial burden the city and state will obtain when "low-wage workers" at the shopping center inevitably apply for government benefits. (Retail workers represent a "disproportionate number of families with a wage earner... enrolled in public assistance programs," the report says.)

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Petro told us that the research he's seen doesn't break out the public assistance benefits between city and state, and it's hard to pin down exactly how much public assistance goes to the 14 percent of working families drawing it. Nonetheless, it would seem to be a lot -- the state gives an estimated $5.2 billion a year in relief to working families.

Related saw it differently in its application to the NYC Industrial Development Agency, claiming payroll, sales, and real estate tax revenues -- plus the $5 million they're paying for the property -- put the city way ahead, though it did not address the public assistance angle.

Calls to Related went unreturned at press time.


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