Spring fever in the Big Apple
I wasn't just hallucinating in the noonday sun; there was love in the air today. At a rally on the steps of City Hall stood Bronx residents, elected officials, retail clerks' and janitors' union members and plenty of building trades hardhats in support of a Community Benefits Agreement to redevelop the massive, 575,000-square foot Kingsbridge Armory. The landmark facility built in 1917 is slated to be a shopping center with long needed amenities like recreation facilities and entertainment venues.
In New York City, it's rare to see such a mix of groups back a development project. The political and real estate forces here have perfected a divide and conquer technique that excludes long-time residents and some labor unions from any meaningful input on proposed projects. Indeed, they are cursed as trolls of development.
Not this time. Members of the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA), a project of the Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition, have spent years educating the community about the development process and the potential of a redeveloped Armory. They won a seat at the city's decision making table - not an easy feat in this town - to ensure the voices of the mostly low- and moderate-income residents were heard from the get go.
This week the city announced a developer had been chosen, with a nod to community involvement for helping with a smooth selection process. Now the hard work begins to ensure that the retail jobs are good jobs - and that badly needed schools are also built in the neighborhood.
Over the years there have been several plans for the Armory that housed tanks, has a huge drill floor and an 800-seat auditorium. Now, thanks to the persistence and inclusiveness of NWBCCC, a good plan is moving forward.
Considering the dismal display of so-called "community benefits agreements" cut privately in The Bronx the past couple of years, those of us working for accountable development in New York are in a spring swoon for the Armory deal.
Come check it out, members of KARA will show off their organizing prowess at GJF conference next month: www.goodjobsfirst.org/conference