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Monday, December 14, 2009

Bloomberg Loses a Key Vote

Parsing Kingsbridge (Updatedx2)
By Elizabeth Benjamin

Lobbyist Richard Lipsky is feeling pretty good in the wake of the unusual defeat by two Council committees of the rezoning required for the Kingsbridge Armory project, confidently pronouncing the plan permanently "dead" - no matter what the administration might try to revive it.

UPDATE: The project has now been rejected by the entire Council. The vote was 45-1 with one abstention from soon-to-be-former Land Use Committee Chairwoman Melinda Katz. The lone vote in opposition came from another outgoing lawmaker, Councilwoman Helen Sears. (Clarification: The vote was to oppose the rezone, so it was 45 in favor and one against).

"He didn't quite grasp the almost seismic nature of the shifting political landscape," said Lipsky, who has been working for months against the Bronx redevelopment.

"People were emboldened by the election results, and the Council leadership vote in January created a unique set of circumstances (for Speaker Christine Quinn). Why would you want to roil the waters and go against the entire Bronx delegation with this vote?"

Lipsky called Quinn a "winner" in the Kingsbridge fight because she decided to side with the Bronx elected officials, who made the living wage issue a deal-breaker, over Mayor Bloomberg and the developer, Related Companies.

"She understood the political winds and she didn't need to be a weatherman to know which way they were blowing," he quipped.

Quinn's relationship with the Bronx delegation has been uneven - not as strong as her ties to the Queens delegation, but far better than her touch-and-go dealings with Brooklyn, which is home to her lone announced opponent for the speaker's chair: Councilman Charles Barron.

Quinn angered new Bronx Democratic Chairman Carl Heastie last February by rewarding Queens with the city clerkship in what was widely viewed as a demonstration of her displeasure that Heastie had been scheming with Brooklyn Democratic Chairman Vito Lopez.

The delegation was far more united on Kingsbridge than on the clerk vote, in which Heastie did not manage to provide a united bloc of votes.

Of course, the players have changed since then - most notably with new Bronx BP Ruben Diaz Jr., who made opposition to the Kingsbridge project without a living wage component his cause célèbre.

Diaz, who won a nearly uncontested special election for the seat vacated by BP Adolfo Carrion, has been mentioned as a potential mayoral contender sometime in the future - perhaps as early as 2013.

Other winners, in Lipsky's eyes, include RWDSU and its president, Stuart Appelbaum, who was among outgoing Comptroller Bill Thompson's most vocal supporters during the mayor's race and made the living wage fight in the Bronx a top priority for his union.

UPDATE2: Bloomberg, who is in Copenhagen, released a statement calling today's vote "disappointing and irrational," adding:

"As a result of today’s vote, we can say one thing for sure: there will be no wages paid at all at the Kingsbridge Armory for the foreseeable future...New Yorkers can rest assured our Administration will not waver in our efforts to encourage private sector investment and job creation in The Bronx and throughout New York City."