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Sen. Schumer seeks up to $2M for Copiague brewery incubator

Sen. Chuck Schumer urged the U.S. Economic Development Administration on March 7, 2016, to grant up to $2 million dollars to help jump-start a Babylon Town brewery incubator in the hamlet of Copiague. (Credit: Steve Pfost)

Sen. Chuck Schumer Monday called on the U.S. Department of Commerce to approve $1 million to $2 million in funding for a craft brewery in Copiague proposed by the Babylon Industrial Agency.

“This will be the mecca of beer brewing in New York State,” said Schumer (D-N.Y.), standing outside a dilapidated former missile component factory that would be razed to make way for a 25,000-square-foot building with space for 10 brewers and a tasting room.

The $12 million incubator would be among the first in the state dedicated to beer and would create 35 to 50 full-time jobs, officials said. Long Island already has least one beer “incubator,” the Taste of Long Island Craft Brewery in Farmingdale, which offers shared brewing equipment for rent by small brewers.

Schumer said it could spark economic activity akin to the recent upstate Greek yogurt boom, calling the plan “a job creator and neighborhood transformer.”

Brewers would share equipment and perhaps customers, paying anticipated monthly rents of $2,500 to $3,500. About 20 brewers, some now working out of their homes, have expressed interest in the facility. Construction would also address a problem of chronic blight at the site, as the building has been vacant for about 30 years.

The one-acre South Strong Avenue property, which also once housed a wallpaper factory, was declared a New York State Superfund site after state Department of Environmental Conservation tests found traces of chemicals used in industrial solvents. About 20 tons of contaminated soil were removed in 2014 before the DEC declared earlier this year that no further remedial action was needed.

Cleanup costs were $750,000 and the property carries a $1 million property tax bill, which the IDA is asking Suffolk County to forgive.

The owner, Crescent Group Realty, of Deer Park, is asking $750,000 for the property on top of those costs, Babylon IDA chief executive Matthew T. McDonough said.

Babylon Town IDA officials estimate construction costs will be between $6 million and $8 million, along with additional design and equipment costs. IDA officials are seeking up to $6 million from the state to augment funds from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, a bureau of the Commerce Department.

The IDA has not yet submitted a grant application, a spokesman for the EDA said. The EDA will “give the application fair consideration under our competitive grant process once received,” a spokesman wrote in an email.

In December, the IDA was awarded a $700,000 grant by the Empire State Development Corp. to pursue the project.

In New York, the beer industry directly supports about 8,000 jobs through brewing and distribution, and nearly 60,000 jobs overall when retail sales are factored in, according to Schumer’s office.

These jobs paid $2.1 billion in wages in 2010, and accounted for $5.3 billion in economic activity. According to the New York State Brewers Association, the number of New York State breweries grew from 95 in 2012 to 207 in 2014. There are at least 27 breweries on Long Island.

Schumer, a fan of Hefeweizen, an American wheat ale, and puns, called all that brewing a “hopportunity.”

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