Despite 45-0 NYC City Council Vote, Bloomberg Vetoed Legislation That Would Guarantee Transparency in Bidding Process for Affordable Housing Construction
Despite an overwhelming 45-0 City Council vote in favor of the legislation, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has vetoed a labor-supported effort to ensure transparency in the bidding and construction of affordable housing projects receiving financial assistance in the city.
Bloomberg cried Republican foul, suggesting that the legislation, “while purporting to promote transparency, is, in actuality, an indirect effort to pressure contractors to hire union workers.”
In his last term as Mayor, Bloomberg has wielded the anti-worker veto with abandon, previously preventing a unified City Council from protecting prevailing wages for the city’s workers. With his latest strike of the pen, Bloomberg seems particularly set on playing the anti-union card. According to Crain’s New York:
The city’s housing program, which serves critical public needs, should not be subverted in this way,” the mayor said. “It is inconsistent with this administration’s priorities to allow wages to be manipulated at the cost of constructing the maximum number of affordable units we can finance.”
Bloomberg was upset about language in the bill that would force the Housing Preservation department to list information such as how developers were selected. Unions have argued that they are being unfairly shut out of building the developments because low bids are going to non-union contractors who use out of state and sometimes-illegal workers. This has a negative impact on the city’s economy by stripping valuable income from resident workers (which means they spend less in the city) and lowering the city’s tax revenue (because illegal workers don’t often pay taxes). As expected, current developers fought the bill while organized labor supported it.
We expected this and anticipate a full override by the City Council,” said a spokesman from the New York City District Council of Carpenters. Former Housing Deputy Commissioner Wendell Walters pleaded guilty in March to taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes. And months later, five others were arrested in connection with a corruption probe at the agency. Unions have pointed to the investigation, and to problems with quality of construction of some affordable projects, to bolster their argument for the bill.
City Council President and likely 2013 Mayoral candidate Christine Quinn promised an override. She called the Mayor’s decision “disappointing.”
“The city allocates hundreds of millions of dollars towards affordable housing development, and this bill will help to better assess the number of units created and preserved while shedding light on HPD’s process of selecting and evaluating developers, how the city pays for those projects and whether the developments are well built,” she said. “Contrary to criticism that the bill will be too costly, this legislation will, at minimal cost, bring transparency to the nation’s largest municipal developer of affordable housing.”