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Speaker Christine Quinn Faces Challenge To Living Wage Bill
Courtney Gross

October 5, 2011
View the Original Article

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration released Wednesday a study that claims the City Council could kill between 6,000 and 13,000 jobs by requiring city subsidized projects to pay a living wage, putting Speaker Christine Quinn, a possible 2013 mayoral candidate, in the spotlight. NY1’s Courtney Gross filed the following report.

A major development project at the Kingsbridge Armory was killed by the City Council. The developer hoped to turn it into a mall, but the council said that wouldn’t happen without a living wage mandate.

Now the situation has come down to a $1 million study released Wednesday by the Bloomberg administration.

It says if the council were to require city subsidized projects pay a living wage — $10 an hour plus benefits — it could kill 6,000 to 13,000 jobs.

The state minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

"We are now in the midst of a really bad recession, and it's important in these times to remove barriers to private employment, that we make it easier for companies to invest in the city to create new facilities, create new jobs, and this bill does exactly the opposite,” said Tokumbo Shobowale, aide to the deputy mayor for economic development.

The study claims developers would flee city projects if forced to pay the higher wage.

Advocates say the study is a sham.

"Our assessment of how such wage standards have worked out is they don't hurt employers. In fact, the result is workers end up staying on the job longer, and they become more productive as a result of that," said James Parrott of the Fiscal Policy Institute.

Supporters of the bill and the bill's sponsor say the study doesn't apply to the current version of the legislation. They just proposed amendments that would increase the subsidy threshold from $100,000 to $1 million to trigger the living wage mandate. They also want to exempt manufacturing projects.

Ultimately, the fate of the proposal is up to Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a potential leading mayoral candidate in 2013.

She must make the choice between its union supporters and pro-business opponents.

On Wednesday, the speaker sidestepped and said she doesn’t have a timeline as to when she may make a decision on the bill. She's holding out to see the final version of the proposal.

"We want to be helpful in getting people working and keeping them working in a way that they can support themselves and their families, but this bill, at the moment, we should all think about it as in suspended animation," said Quinn.

Supporters say they’ll be waiting.