Fairfield Knolls at Deer Park, formerly the Sutton Landing at Deer...

Fairfield Knolls at Deer Park, formerly the Sutton Landing at Deer Park, a 55-and-over community. Credit: John Roca

Fairfield, the Island's biggest apartment landlord, has acquired 425 units of 55-plus housing in Deer Park and Mount Sinai for a combined $208 million.

The Melville-based firm paid $90 million for Sutton Landing at Deer Park and nearly $118 million for Sutton Landing at Mount Sinai, according to paperwork filed with public authorities that granted tax benefits to the projects and records from CoStar, a data analytics firm. Both properties have been renamed Fairfield Knolls.

B2K, the Jericho firm that developed the senior apartments, said  that the tax benefits were needed to pull off the projects in applications submitted to town industrial development agencies from 2017 to 2019. After opening both sites in 2020, B2K appears to have profited enough off the Sutton Landing communities that an economic development policy group is questioning the utility of the tax benefits.

B2K didn't respond to requests for comment. 

Fairfield declined to comment. 

The Babylon IDA voted to grant Engel Burman, a predecessor company to B2K, property tax reductions estimated to be worth $21 million over 30 years, Newsday reported in 2019. The developer said it would put $49 million into building apartments for those 55 or older on the grounds of a closed school in Deer Park, according to its IDA application.  

The project opened in 2020 and reserved 40 of 200 units for people making less than the Island's median income. 

In October, Fairfield paid $90 million for the development, according to CoStar, a real estate analytics firm. That's nearly $41 million, or 83%, more than the project price included in IDA paperwork.

In Mount Sinai, Engel Burman said it was putting $73 million into Sutton Landing on an application for tax benefits filed with the Brookhaven IDA in 2017. The IDA voted to reduce the apartments' property taxes for 13 years, IDA documents show.

The first resident moved into the development in February 2020, according to a Facebook group for the community.

The Mount Sinai transaction closed late last month, according to CBRE, a brokerage firm involved with the deal. The developers sold that complex to Fairfield for nearly $118 million, IDA documents show. That's $44 million, or 60%, more than the project value included in the 2017 application.

The estimated rates of return suggest both projects would've been feasible without tax perks, said Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, a group seeking accountability in economic development and pushing for state legislation that it says would reform IDAs. 

Tax incentives are meant to make projects profitable enough that developers will risk their private equity, LeRoy said.

“In this case, twice over you’ve got rates of return way, way out of the risk zone,” he said. “They strongly suggest that the incentives were not necessary.”

LeRoy said IDAs should structure their deals so that the public splits the profit when projects are sold and incentives are transferred to the new owner, as has happened with both Sutton Landing developments.

"If your profits are going to be boosted by this tax exemption, then we should participate in that," LeRoy said.

But Tom Dolan, CEO of the Babylon IDA, said passing along the property tax benefits to Fairfield will ensure seniors can rent apartments at rates he described as affordable.

"The Babylon IDA closely scrutinized the financials of this project when it was proposed and, based on NYS law, approved tax abatements at the recommendation of a third-party analyst," Dolan said in a statement. 

The Brookhaven IDA didn't respond to a request for comment. 

IDA incentives are critical for housing construction on Long Island, said Kyle Strober, executive director of the Association for a Better Long Island, a group representing developers. 

"For every successful deal there are unsuccessful deals, and without IDA incentives, Long Island developers would not be able to obtain the financing from national banks, who can invest across our country," Strober said in a statement. "These projects took vacant and/or blighted properties, put them back on the tax roll, created hundreds of construction jobs and provided much needed housing on Long Island."

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