The City Council’s approval of the so-called “prevailing wage” bill was not a surprise. The Council remains a bastion of the old politics of government grandstanding and job-killing mandates, and the “prevailing wage” bill gave members the opportunity to pander to unions and other special interests.
So it wasn’t the vote itself that was interesting. But a maneuver that took place before the vote spoke volumes about the bill’s recklessness.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the bill’s most powerful champion, decided at the last minute to exempt one of the city’s biggest proposed developments from the bill’s wage mandate. The proposed Hudson Yards project, which calls for a mixed-use development on 26 acres on the Far West Side, will not have to adhere to the law’s requirement that workers receive $10 an hour if they receive benefits, and $11.50 if they do not.
Any project that receives more than $1 million in city subsidies is covered under the “prevailing wage” bill—except for Hudson Yards. Why? Well, even Speaker Quinn realizes that the Hudson Yards project is critical to the development of the Far West Side. It’s now or never for an area that has been in desperate need of development for decades. Ms. Quinn, a likely mayoral aspirant next year, clearly realized that the bill could doom the project.
But what of other projects that will not get done now because of this unnecessary mandate? If the bill was bad for Hudson Yards, it surely is bad for other projects and other developers. That speaks to the bill’s job-killing flaws—flaws that should have stopped this legislation in its tracks.
Unfortunately, it is now law. Ms. Quinn will have to answer for this on the campaign trail next year.