Clash at IDA Board Over Study
May 10th, 2011
A small spat erupted at this morning’s Industrial Development Agency board meeting, when Bronx borough president appointee Albert Rodriguez questioned the legitimacy and release of the city’s living wage study.
Rodriguez chastised the Economic Development Corp., which is the parent agency to the Industrial Development Agency, for hastily releasing the study’s executive summary to the press before giving a copy to the board on Monday. He also seriously questioned the report’s findings, which suggest a living wage mandate for city subsidized developments would result in job losses. Legislation to require similar wage standards is currently ruminating at the City Council.
Rodriguez called the study “political football for the interest of the Bloomberg adminsitration” and “very flawed.”
“This was a waste of money,” Rodriguez said. “We could have hired nine more teachers.”
The IDA board authorized the agency to spend $1 million on the study, which was conducted by Boston-based consulting firm, Charles River Associates.
The study’s executive summary was released yesterday afternoon in anticipation of a City Council hearing scheduled for Thursday, said EDC President Seth Pinsky. The City Council had asked the agency to accelerate the study’s release so it could discuss the findings at the hearing. The full report will be released in the “coming weeks,” Pinsky said.
In defense of the study, Pinsky said it was “disappointing” officials would allege the agency was playing politics.
“I think [the study] is very similar, in fact, to the approach that’s been taken on many of the studies that have been cited by proponents of wage mandates,” Pinsky said. “What the study found was the legislation that has been proposed in the City Council here in New York is dramatically different from wage mandate legislation that has been proposed across the country. The additional requirements that are put into this particular legislation… they would make it extremely difficult and unlikely that people would continue to take the benefits.”
Pinsky said there are other ways to create better “living standards,” including expanding the benefits of the earned income tax credit. Any change in that tax credit would need federal, state and city approval. Pinsky also said the agency is conducting an internal study on how it can expand jobs in various middle income sectors, like construction or health care.
“There is nobody on either side of this debate who doesn’t want to figure out a way to raise the living standards of the least fortunate members of society,” Pinsky said. “The question is: Is this the right way to do it?”
The study found living wage policies would increase the standard wage at city subsidized developments, but could result in substantial job losses — anywhere from 33,000 to 100,000. Immediately after the executive summary was released, a Bloomberg spokesperson reiterated the administration’s opposition to the bill.
Rodriguez too is not without political motives. His boss, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., proposed the living wage legislation after the City Council rejected a proposal to develop the Kingsbridge Armory in the borough. The proposal was defeated because the developer would not promise to force tenants to pay a living wage.
When asked whether the study would hurt the bill’s chances, Rodriguez told Gotham Gazette this morning: “It’s the council that will make this decision… We’re hopeful that the legislation will get passed and it will go to the floor. And if the mayor wants to veto it, we’ll have enough votes.”
Currently, the bill has 30 sponsors, but Council Speaker Christine Quinn has yet to take a position. Quinn controls the council’s agenda.
Both Quinn and Diaz are prospective mayoral candidates in 2013. You can bet that race will factor into Quinn’s decision to support or oppose the bill.By Courtney Gross on May 10, 2011, 12:26 pm
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