The land-use battle comes at something of an unpredictable time in New York City politics. The project is slated to come up for a vote before the Council in November or December, after the Democratic primary election in September but before the current crop of elected officials leave their current posts. Thus many on the Council will be lame ducks at the time of the vote, potentially including the local Councilwoman, Maria Baez, as the Bronx Democratic Party recently endorsed her challenger, as did the Working Families Party.
Regardless, Ms. Baez and other members of the Bronx delegation—Councilmen Joel Rivera and Oliver Koppell, for instance—are at the center of both sides’ efforts.
Already, almost all of the elected officials involved in the project have endorsed the general efforts of the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance, a union of groups, including RWDSU and the clergy coalition, that wants living-wage guarantees, among other things. Ms. Baez’s spokesman said she supports a living-wage requirement at the armory.
And, to the Bronx elected officials, the clergy coalition and Mr. Appelbaum are significant—they help rally voters, and the council members often align with them.
“[Mr. Appelbaum] has influence with me,” said Mr. Koppel, who represents the neighboring Council district and who is pushing for a school by the armory. “I would much prefer not to vote against whatever they are seeking.”
Related, one of the more effective developers of public administered projects in this city, is no stranger to Bronx politics, as the firm has attempted to gain approval for two separate retail developments in the past five years. It has much experience in throwing the community concessions to win approvals, and its executives donated prolifically to elected officials in the borough—since 2006, Related employees have given more than $42,000 to city elected officials, according to campaign filings—before rules were changed limiting such contributions.
Leading the public approval and strategic efforts is Mr. Masyr, the wry, politically apt land use lawyer who has waged many of Related’s battles in recent years, most of them successful, most notably the approval in 2006 of the conversion of the Bronx Terminal Market by Yankee Stadium.
But it’s worth noting that before Related’s victory at the Bronx Terminal Market, the firm suffered a rare loss on a land-use project in the borough a year earlier, under circumstances similar to those today. Related wanted to put a 130,000-square-foot BJ’s along Brush Avenue, only to see it voted down in a key City Council subcommittee.
The main reasons for the defeat: a fear of big-box retailers, low wages and concerns that nearby supermarkets would be put out of business.
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