Today New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his next to last State of the City speech, where he announced that as of today “We’re launching a new effort to bring jobs to the most talked about vacant building in the Bronx: The Kingsbridge Armory. In collaboration with (Bronx) Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., today, we are releasing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a new operator of the Armory. We’re putting aside our differences to do whats best for the city. That’s what leadership is about. It’s not about a series of running arguments – it’s about getting things done. We’ve heard from a variety of interested parties, including those who want to develop it into recreational space. And we’re hopeful that the Kingsbridge Armory, vacant for some 15 years, will soon be transformed into a place that benefits the community and employs community members”.
Now don’t get me wrong, I would love to believe that this is going to be good for the community but when one of your strongest allies from the previous battle for responsible development, Borough President Ruben Diaz says “I have supported plenty, plenty of job-creating developments in the borough that do not pay a living wage,” he said. “I have not stopped, I have not stagnated any project.” in a NY Times article, I tend to get a bit skeptical, but maybe that’s just me. I have been in this fight for more than 15 years and this is not the first State of the City speech to talk about the Armory.
Unfortunately, the Republican Capitalism plans to create jobs in our community have historically been like this, the Mayor (Giuliani & Bloomberg) gives valuable land and/or city assets to developers at deep discounts, then subsidizes the projects with millions of taxpayer dollars in cheap financing, tax breaks, and ridiculously low rents in order to create poverty wage jobs, and the number of those jobs hasn’t been as many as promised. It was policies like this that got us to rally the community and our local elected officials to stop the last give away of the Armory. Mayor Bloomberg was voted down 45-1 by the City Council because crappy minimum wage jobs were not acceptable to our community.
It’s funny that in the “white” neighborhoods of Park Slope and Park Ave., their armories were converted through Public/Private partnerships that did not threaten to destroy local businesses. The renovation of those armories and the High Line on the West Side of Manhattan have become beacons of hope and beauty without exploiting the members of those communities as poverty workers. The Bronx, the nation’s poorest urban county, has an unemployment/underemployment rate that is above 50% and yet the best they could come up with was a shopping mall for our neighborhood. The last thing we need is a tax payer built”sweat shop”.