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John Petro

Why We Need a Living Wage Law for Subsidy Recipients

Yesterday, the New York Times weighed in for the first time on the debate over the Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment in the Bronx (for some background on the project, see this post). Notably, the article failed to mention the fact that the developer of the project, Related Companies, is receiving public subsidies worth about $40 million.

The article offered up some other interesting tidbits. First, it discusses Mayor Bloomberg's opposition to Community Benefits Agreements. "City officials say that benefits to local residents should be considered as part of the public approval process, not in separate agreements." I agree that Community Benefits Agreements are a second-best policy option. It would be better if the city set out requirements for subsidy recipients in law, making certain standards--like a living wage--mandatory. Recently, I gave testimony to the City Council about this very issue, pointing out how other cities require living wage jobs to be created when public tax dollars are used to subsidize a private company.

Nothing proves the importance of having these standards set in law more than this quote from the article:

But he said the company would not give in on the living wage demand because prospective tenants would not accept it. "We don't believe tenants are going to sign leases that would put them in default if they didn't live up to the wage commitment," Mr. Masyr said. Related has signed a living wage agreement in the past -- for a stalled project in downtown Los Angeles -- but only because it was required to do so by local laws, he said.

Straight from the horse's mouth: without these requirements set in law, subsidy recipients are not going to provide the types of community benefits that local residents need.

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Posted at 11:48 AM, Sep 30, 2009 in Urban Affairs
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