Living-wage author on Quinn’s Hudson Yards exemption: ‘Hard to imagine a convincing justification’

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Appelbaum, Oliver Koppell, Ruben Diaz Jr. and Wylde. (Dana Rubinstein)
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Paul Sonn, one of the original authors of New York City's pending "living wage" bill, which would require recipients of some city economic-development subsidizes to pay their employees at least $10 an hour, says the recently reported exemption for a portion of Hudson Yards, makes little sense.

"It’s hard to imagine a convincing justification for it," said Sonn, legal co-director of the National Employment Law Project, on Friday.

The New York Times recently reported that Council Speaker Christine Quinn had agreed to carve out an exemption to the new living wage bill for a portion of Related's Hudson Yards project. It's not clear why she did so, although she has a relationship with the party that stands to benefit most: Quinn's running for mayor in 2013, and Related executives have donated more than $30,000 to her campaign.

Her office's response to the report was to point out that it was draft legislation. (Today, her spokeswoman, Maria Alvarado, referred Capital to the statement she submitted to the Times: “The final version of this bill and its details are still being drafted. The legislation has not been finalized.”)

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Sonn was one of the authors of the original living wage proposal, which essentially would require recipients of city economic development subsidies worth $1 million or more to pay their employees $10 an hour with health benefits, or $11.50 without. 

The original bill also had the retail tenants of subsidized developers paying employees living wage, but, the speaker ultimately omitted that provision.

This Hudson Yards exception would further weaken a bill that will affect fewer than 1,000 New Yorkers anyway.

"Hudson Yards has got to be one of the most prime development projects in any global city that one can imagine for the foreseeable future," said Sonn on Friday. "It's going to be a massive new residential and commercial district and the idea that developers there receiving multimillion-dollar city subsidies can’t afford to pay a $10 basic wage seems surprising."

On Monday, Sonn seemed more hopeful about the final outcome of negotiations, and, echoing Alvarado's statement, said, "many of the details of the living wage bill, including that exemption, are still in flux and may change. The key point is that the living wage will be a watershed for economic development in New York, marking the first time the city pushes developers to create quality jobs for local residents.”