I’m late to this party, but maybe I’m not the only one who has missed out on this example of how an unholy alliance between local politicians and the labor unions who own them is contributing to chronic joblessness.
The story concerns plans to develop the Kingsbridge armory in the borough of the Bronx and to make it into a shopping mall.
Since the Bronx has the highest rate of unemployment in New York City, at 12.3%, you would assume that elected officials would be doing everything in their power to bring jobs to their county.
You would be wrong.
You would also be wrong if you assumed that the people who live in the Bronx, and who would have taken the new jobs that would have comel are outraged at losing the chance at gainful employment.
They are not.
You would think that the politicians are incensed at having lost all of the tax revenue that would have flowed into city coffers.
They do not care.
A few years ago the Related Companies decided to invest over $300 million in the project. It was going to hire 1,000 construction workers to build the mall. Once the mall was built the businesses in it would have hired 1,200 full time employees.
Not a bad deal, you would think.
To help the project along New York City was going to offer a $17 million tax incentive. So, the city government got involved, as did community organizations led to labor unions. The labor unions insisted that all employees on construction and in the mall be unionized, and that said employees had to earn minimum wages dictated by the unions.
Robert Knakal explained in in the New York Observer: “The argument is made that because taxpayer dollars were used to create incentives for this development, the public sector should control what the private sector pays its employees. However, what must be considered is that without public-sector subsidies, these developments are often not feasible. With $17 million in tax incentives, the public sector can stimulate $310 million of private-sector investment, creating thousands of jobs and producing $85 million of real estate taxes over a 30-year period-not a bad deal for the city and the community by any stretch of the imagination.”
When the Related Companies’ refused the unions’ demands for “living wage” language, the New York City Council voted them down, with near unanimity. The vote was 45-1.
After Mayor Bloomberg vetoed their result, the Council voted to override his veto.
The result is that the armory has been vacant for the years that followed this vote.
You would think that the community would be outraged. Not at all. Knakal reports: “Many of those opposing the plan have said that ‘no jobs would be better than inferior jobs’.”
The Borough President of the Bronx, Ruben Diaz declared: “The notion that any job is better than no job no longer applies.”
Of course, the people who refuse to work for market wages are probably collecting unemployment benefits. So, here’s a thought. Maybe if they people ran out of unemployment benefits they would feel more motivated to sign on to jobs that they think they’re too good for.