Today the City Council is holding a hearing to discuss revised Living Wage bill, which would require some companies receiving city tax breaks pay employees $10 an hour plus benefits or $11.50 without. (The current minimum wage in NYC is $7.25.) The big question is how Speaker Christine Quinn would vote (assuming she allows the bill to come up for a vote). Quinn, a Bloomberg protege, has kept mum on whether she supports the legislation, which is staunchly opposed by the Bloomberg administration. Yesterday Deputy Mayor Robert Steel sent a letter to a long list of people and organizations who contacted him about the bill, and explained why his boss opposes any requirement to pay workers enough to "live."
“The realization of the Administration's New Housing Marketplace Plan, which aims to build or preserve 165,000 units of affordable housing for half a million New Yorkers would be put in jeopardy because the ground-floor retail that many developers use to subsidize affordable housing would no longer produce the necessary financial benefits,” Steel writes in a copy of the letter obtained by the Daily News. He further predicts that the bill would cost the city entry-level jobs, as well as skilled construction jobs as "many projects become financially unfeasible."
Steel also argues that a living wage would hurt "the City's most important cultural and non-profit institutions that—while themselves exempted from the legislation—often rely on much-needed operating income provided by for-profit subtenants such as restaurants or gift shops." In other words, if the cashier selling Julliard sweatshirts in the Lincoln Center gift shop gets paid enough to survive, you can kiss Das Reinghold goodbye! Earlier this year, a living wage impact study ordered by Mayor Bloomberg agreed with Mayor Bloomberg.
"The money that you get it's next to impossible to pay rent much less buy food. It's a very difficult way to make a living," former chain store employee Nick Pellman tells NY1. Last night the bill's supporters held a spirited rally at Harlem’s Riverside Church, where elected officials, union workers and leaders from faith institutions across the city demanded action on the legislation.
And though critics have blamed living wage demands for killing a proposed shopping mall at the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx, Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter, who heads the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance, declares, "We rescued our community from what would have become a poverty wage center." And now, instead of a boring old mall, we're gonna get a place to ride bikes!