Monday, April 2, 2012

Not when her Ox is gored. Why is the "Living Wage" good for others?

Quinn for the 1 percent

To the surprise — and consternation — of some, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has moved to exempt part of a major Manhattan development project from her economically corrosive “living wage” bill.

The Related Cos. won a carve-out from the bill for a significant chunk of Hudson Yards, the 26-acre mixed-use development along the West Side.

The bill would require developers like Related and other companies that receive city subsidies to pay their workers at least $10 — and as much as $11.50 — an hour, far above the state’s minimum wage.

Why the special treatment for Related in this instance?

Well, it certainly doesn’t hurt that the firm has taken quite a liking to mayoral wannabe Quinn, with its employees thus far donating $34,200 to her campaign.

But you’ve got to wonder what some of New York’s major developers think of this.

For one thing, passing such a bill with one carve-out just opens the way to adding further exemptions down the line for other companies. That’s simple equity (not that Quinn & Co, care much aboutthat).

But additional exceptions would render the bill practically meaningless in terms of its actual effect.

That’ll be just fine with folks who care about the city’s future, of course.

We’ve warned from the outset that such a bill would do little more than radically drive up construction costs — a significant disincentive for New York development.

Or kill important projects a-borning — as with the erstwhile Kingsbridge Armory undertaking in The Bronx.

More fundamentally, the current scheme says a lot about how Quinn plans to govern if she’s elected mayor.

Her proposal plays both sides of the issue — scoring points with the unions, who desperately want the bill, while covering the back of a key developer and campaign supporter.

But, not to coin a phrase, her approach protects the 1 percent of developers — big players like Related — while forcing the 99 percent to carry the burden of the bill’s business-stifling effect.

Best that the bill die on the merits.

But if it moves forward, it should do so with no exemptions — either it applies to everyone, or to no one.

Quinn is supposed to understand these things.

Apparently not.

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