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Syosset residents, unions divided over IDA aid for Amazon warehouse

A Newsday photo from 2004 shows a dilapidated

A Newsday photo from 2004 shows a dilapidated company sign at the old Cerro Wire site in Syosset, and a water tower falling as it's being demolished.  Credit: Newsday/Karen Wiles Stabile

Syosset residents and union leaders Tuesday offered divergent views about whether Nassau County should grant millions of dollars in tax breaks to an Amazon warehouse proposed for the old Cerro Wire site.

Laura Schultz, president of the civic association, Residents for a More Beautiful Syosset, said, "it is unimaginable and unconscionable" that behemoth retailer Amazon would request "financial aid from Nassau County." Syosset residents who are struggling to pay their bills during the recession "are the ones who need this tax relief," not Amazon, she said.

Jack Majkut, a business representative for Local 25 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, disagreed, saying the $71 million warehouse project would provide employment for "hundreds" of unionized construction workers.

"Coming off the tail end of the pandemic, this project will generate much needed tax revenue and [consumer] spending to help stimulate the economy," he said.

Schultz and Majkut were among eight people who testified during a virtual public hearing held by the county’s Industrial Development Agency. On Thursday night, the IDA board is expected to consider a resolution granting final approval for tax aid to the Amazon "last-mile" warehouse off the Long Island Expressway.

The retailer and developer Syosset Park Development LLC are seeking from the IDA a sales-tax exemption of up to $2.8 million on the purchase of construction materials and equipment; $537,750 off the mortgage recording tax; and a property-tax reduction over 15 years.

Syosset school board president Tracy Frankel said at Tuesday's hearing that Amazon and Syosset Park would save $8 million in property taxes under the proposed incentive package, or roughly $53,000 for each of the 150 warehouse jobs to be created.

She and others said Amazon and the independent transportation companies that it uses to deliver packages are already creating jobs without IDA assistance, judging from the dozens of Amazon delivery vans parked on a nearby Underhill Road property.

IDA chairman Richard Kessel said Amazon would likely drop its Syosset warehouse plan if the tax breaks aren’t approved. He said the school district, Nassau and other taxing jurisdictions would receive an additional $12 million in property taxes over 15 years — compared with their tax receipts if the land remains vacant.

Kessel said the IDA will take additional public comments on Thursday night. He said any decision the agency makes will be contingent on the state Department of Environmental Conservation approving a pollution cleanup proposed by Amazon and Syosset Park.

That’s not good enough, said Syosset resident Kevin McKenna, who also has declared his candidacy for Oyster Bay town supervisor.

"How the IDA could be having this hearing prior to a decision by the DEC is unbelievable," he said.

The warehouse would lead to further cleanup of the Cerro Wire site "after so many failed attempts to redevelop this property over the last three decades," said Matthew Aracich, president of the union umbrella group, Nassau-Suffolk Building and Construction Trades Council. He said he’s working to have the warehouse built by union workers.

Asked about the IDA tax breaks after the hearing, an Amazon spokeswoman said: "We weigh a variety of factors when deciding where to develop future sites to best serve customers, however, we have a policy of not commenting on our future roadmap."

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