Last month the City Planning Commission approved a controversial plan to turn the Kingsbridge Armory, a massive red-brick castle in the Bronx, into a mall that will include a large department store, shops and a movie theater. But critics of the $310 million project insist the developer should not get the green light unless future mall employees are guaranteed a living wage. Opposition was intense yesterday at the City Council subcommittee's public hearing to decide whether to approve rezoning.

Councilman Joel Rivera said, "In my book, this is an economic exploitation project because when you have families who can't make ends meet, pay their bills, pay their rent, we have a situation where it is called keeping people in poverty." Living wage advocates are trying to derail the project unless the developer, The Related Companies, promises that all 1,200 permanent employees at the future mall will get $10 an hour with benefits. "What we want to see is real jobs with real living wages. For the record, as the delegation, what we are against is remaining in poverty," said Councilwoman Annabel Palma.

Related maintains they can't force stores in a mall to pay more than minimum wage, and a spokesman for the developer tells NY1, "When it comes to things such as living wage, while we agree that it is a laudable goal and it's something that we are generally supportive of, we strongly believe that if it was a requirement to put that into the lease that it would render the project unleaseable." And yesterday Mayor Bloomberg waxed Randian, telling reporters, "I know the desire people have, but the reality is that the city is not in the business of guaranteeing people's wages, and in private development, we shouldn't be." The City Council has until December 14th to approve required zoning and land-use actions for the project.