The board of directors of the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency will have a mix of new faces and holdovers under a compromise struck by new County Executive Laura Curran and the County Legislature’s Republican majority, officials confirmed.
The legislature, in January, quickly approved Democrat Curran’s nomination of former LIPA chief Richard Kessel to the IDA, an agency that grants tax breaks to expanding businesses. However, Curran’s other six nominations for the unpaid board seats have stalled.
The Nassau IDA is one of eight on Long Island and has been criticized by homeowners and politicians for awarding tax incentives to automobile dealerships and self-storage facilities. However, it also has been lauded for helping to keep public companies here, including organic and natural products seller Hain Celestial Group Inc. and Dealertrack Inc., a provider of software to automobile dealerships.
Earlier this month, Curran renominated banker Lewis M. Warren and LIRR union leader Anthony Simon. She also put forward Amy Flores, a home lending manager at People’s United Bank, for the IDA board.
The three appointments are expected to be considered by the full legislature on Monday, according to Frank Moroney, communications director for the legislature’s Republican majority. The powerful Rules Committee unanimously approved the appointments on March 12.
Moroney said Curran has agreed to retain three of the IDA’s current board members: banker Timothy Williams, restaurateur John Coumatos and former carpenters union leader Christopher Fusco.
Williams and Coumatos were appointed to the IDA board in 2012 after being nominated by then-County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican. Fusco worked as Mangano’s labor relations representative after stepping down as president of his union local. He joined the IDA in 2008 under then-County Executive Thomas Suozzi, a Democrat.
Republican lawmakers “are looking for the IDA to continue what it has been doing…to create the jobs, retain the jobs that increase the tax base. They hope this new board, when it is constituted, will carry that mission forward,” Moroney said.
The total value of tax breaks granted by the Nassau IDA increased more than 300 percent between 2004 and 2016 to $44 million, according to a Newsday analysis of certified IDA reports filed with the state. In 2004, companies receiving IDA aid had cut a total of 8,678 jobs since receiving assistance. In 2016, businesses receiving aid had added 14,478 jobs, the analysis showed.
Curran said, “Working in a bipartisan way, we have to make sure that we have the best appointees possible to really spur the economic development that we need to grow the tax base, to attract business and to create a business-friendly environment.”
She initially had wanted to replace the current IDA board and to have it led by Evlyn R. Tsimis, deputy county executive for economic development and a former executive at cable television, internet and telephone services provider Altice USA.
Curran has given up on that plan, saying in an interview that Tsimis “will work hand in hand” with the IDA.
Kessel, who once led the state Power Authority, played a role in brokering the compromise.
He said he worked with Curran and lawmakers from both political parties “to come up with a group that worked, that gave the new county executive the ability to carry out her agenda but also gave a voice to the legislature...This compromise allows the IDA to begin to work.”
- With Celeste Hadrick