The New York City Industrial Development Agency board last week voted against a resolution to terminate a wage study after several board members questioned the researchers’ objectivity.
The IDA contracted researchers for the $1 million study after City Council members proposed bills that would require a “living wage” that is higher than the minimum wage for employees at certain projects receiving taxpayer subsidies.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg — whose administration’s appointees and ex-officio members make up a majority of the board and who effectively controls the New York City Economic Development Corp. — opposes the legislation.
Representatives of Comptroller John Liu, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer wrote in a letter to other IDA board members that the selection of Charles River Associates and economists Daniel Hamermesh and David Neumark confirmed their “worst fears” that the study would be unbalanced in favor of those who oppose living-wage rules.
They also suggested that the study was politically motivated.
Neumark, a professor of economics at the University of California, Irvine, wrote in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece last year: “I doubt there is ever a good time to raise the minimum wage.” He also has worked on wage studies for the pro-business nonprofit Employment Policies Institute.
“We have the mayor and EDC officials saying that a living wage will cripple the economy,” Diaz’s representative, Albert Rodriquez, said at the board meeting. “We don’t believe the process that was used to create the [request for proposals], that the team that was chosen and that the ongoing process is a process that is going to provide a balanced review of the merits of living wage.”
Rodriquez proposed rescinding the contract and starting the RFP process over again.
IDA chairman Seth Pinsky defended the selection and the process.
“If the study is as clearly biased as I think some members of the board feel that it might end up being, I think it will be a very thin read ... and will not be of much use,” he said.