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Bronx Gateway Center Mall Has Turned Out to be a Great Deal -- For Developers
New York Daily News
Juan Gonzalez

June 24, 2011
View the Original Article


At first glance, the Bronx Gateway Center Mall near Yankee Stadium is an economic success story.

Open less than two years, the mall boasts the third-most-profitable BJ's Wholesale Club in the country. Its other big-name tenants - Target, Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond, Marshalls, Staples, Applebee's - also are booming.

All together, the $500 million mall contains nearly 1 million square feet of retail space and another 1 million for parking.

But a closer look suggests city taxpayers and Bronx residents were promised the moon and left with peanuts.

Start with the rent the mall's developer, The Related Companies, paid for 16 acres of city-owned land that the Bloomberg administration handed the company in a sole-source deal.

Related paid $343,820 in rent this year, the city Economic Development Corp. says. That works out to about 50 cents rent per square foot per year.

At the same time, the company collected $27 million in lease payments from stores at the mall.

Then there are real estate taxes. Thanks to a 25-year tax commercial tax abatement program - one that has mushroomed in the Bloomberg era - Related paid the grand total of $540,000 this year in something called a payment in lieu of taxes.

The EDC says a normal property tax bill would be about $4.8 million, but even that assessment is a gross understatement. The Finance Department admitted to the Daily News last week its staff somehow neglected to assess half of Gateway's 2 million square feet.

Joanna Rose, Related's vice president for corporate communications, declined to discuss the mall's finances.

"It's well-leased, our tenants are happy and we've brought much-needed jobs to the Bronx," Rose said.

EDC spokesman David Lombino said the site "was once crime-ridden, home to a jail and was deadlocked in a lawsuit that could have cost the city tens of millions of dollars and years to settle ... Today, it is home to waterfront parks and a thriving retail center that created thousands of construction jobs and permanent jobs."

So how about all those new jobs the mall has created?

Most people don't recall that back in 2005, when Related and EDC's former president, Andrew Alper, were seeking City Council approval for Gateway, Alper predicted the mall would "employ more than 2,300 full-time people."

By the time construction began, the figure had been quietly lowered to 1,766. Last year, the city reported that the equivalent of only 986 full-time jobs have been created.

Most of those jobs pay an average of $8 an hour, the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp. says.

Little wonder Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. fought to defeat City Hall's plan for another Related retail project at the old Kingsbridge Armory.

Or that Diaz has become a vocal champion for a living wage bill before the City Council.

"We've seen this movie before," Diaz said. "These companies get low rents, pay little taxes and they make a killing on sales, yet they want to be able to pay our city residents poverty wages. It's got to stop."