Kyle Strober, executive director of the Association for a Better...

Kyle Strober, executive director of the Association for a Better Long Island, opposes the IDA board expansion bill that Assemb. Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont) sponsored. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Industrial development agencies, which grant tax breaks to expanding businesses, would be required to have representatives of unions and public schools on their boards of directors under a bill adopted by the State Legislature.

The bill passed the state Senate in a 51-10 vote earlier this month after being approved by the Assembly, 128-19.

The bill is expected to reach Gov. Kathy Hochul’s desk later this year for her signature or veto. “The governor will review the legislation,” her spokesman Justin Henry told Newsday this week when asked for Hochul’s stance.

The bill is among several introduced in the 2023-24 regular legislative sessions that proponents argue would provide much-needed transparency of IDAs and ensure their tax-break deals benefit unionized construction workers and public schools.

Supporters include the state School Boards Association, the Fiscal Policy Institute and the state AFL-CIO, an umbrella group of unions that includes New York State United Teachers.

“The working residents of Riverhead have had no say in whether or not these [tax] abatements are given, but we are all aware of the increasing tax burden,” said Colin Palmer, president of the Riverhead Central School District’s board of education.

Opponents of the legislation, including developers, IDAs and their trade group, the New York State Economic Development Council, argue that business expansions, job creation and additional housing for workers would be stymied.

“Approving this proposal would begin to create self-destructive behavior within IDAs where special interests begin to determine how, when or even if economic growth will be allowed on Long Island,” said Kyle Strober, executive director of the developers’ group Association for a Better Long Island. “The result will be a paralysis of private-sector community investment, which ironically, is the only means to prevent school taxes from skyrocketing.”

The bill stipulates that the board of each of the state’s more than 100 IDAs have seats reserved for “a representative of a local labor organization and either a school district superintendent or a representative of a school board.”

Among Long Island’s eight IDAs, at least five already have a labor representative on their board. The Suffolk County IDA has two, according to a Newsday review of IDA board-member biographies.

In terms of school representatives, at least five IDAs have board members with ties to public or private elementary and secondary educational institutions.

For example, the chair of the Glen Cove IDA is that city’s mayor, Pamela D. Panzenbeck, who taught business and computer education for over 30 years in the Levittown Public Schools. At the Riverhead Town IDA, board secretary Tony Barresi spent 34 years as a teacher and principal in the Huntington Union Free School District, the review shows.

Still, Assemb. Michaelle C. Solages (D-Elmont), the bill’s sponsor, said mandating that every IDA board include representatives of unions and public schools “will improve how [tax] incentives are developed to fit the needs of the entire community. Workers and school districts should not be left behind on these decisions that directly impact them.”

Solages represents the neighborhood around the Green Acres Mall and an adjacent shopping center, which won tax breaks from the Hempstead Town IDA in 2014. Three years later, homeowners denounced the tax incentive package, saying it had caused their school property taxes to increase. The IDA responded by revoking the tax aid, but that decision was ruled as unlawful by a Nassau County judge in 2018.

State Sen. Shelley B. Mayer (D-Yonkers), also a bill sponsor, said, “When public funds or tax benefits accrue to developments, the voice of organized labor should be part of the deliberation. Similarly, when public funds or benefits affect the financial condition of a school district, it is essential their voice is heard as well.”

The IDA trade group “opposes [the legislation] as written,” said its executive director Ryan M. Silva.

If Hochul signs the bill into law, it would go into effect after 180 days.

CORRECTION: Reinvent Albany has taken no position on state legislation that would require industrial development agencies to have representatives of unions and public schools on their boards of directors. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Reinvent Albany's position.

Industrial development agencies, which grant tax breaks to expanding businesses, would be required to have representatives of unions and public schools on their boards of directors under a bill adopted by the State Legislature.

The bill passed the state Senate in a 51-10 vote earlier this month after being approved by the Assembly, 128-19.

The bill is expected to reach Gov. Kathy Hochul’s desk later this year for her signature or veto. “The governor will review the legislation,” her spokesman Justin Henry told Newsday this week when asked for Hochul’s stance.

The bill is among several introduced in the 2023-24 regular legislative sessions that proponents argue would provide much-needed transparency of IDAs and ensure their tax-break deals benefit unionized construction workers and public schools.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • IDAs, which give tax breaks to businesses and housing developments, would have to have representatives of unions and public schools on their boards of directors under a bill that has passed the State Legislature.
  • Gov. Kathy Hochul “will review the legislation,” her spokesman said.
  • At least five of Long Island's eight IDAs already either have board members with ties to unions or public schools, according to a Newsday review of IDA board-member biographies.

Supporters include the state School Boards Association, the Fiscal Policy Institute and the state AFL-CIO, an umbrella group of unions that includes New York State United Teachers.

“The working residents of Riverhead have had no say in whether or not these [tax] abatements are given, but we are all aware of the increasing tax burden,” said Colin Palmer, president of the Riverhead Central School District’s board of education.

Opponents of the legislation, including developers, IDAs and their trade group, the New York State Economic Development Council, argue that business expansions, job creation and additional housing for workers would be stymied.

“Approving this proposal would begin to create self-destructive behavior within IDAs where special interests begin to determine how, when or even if economic growth will be allowed on Long Island,” said Kyle Strober, executive director of the developers’ group Association for a Better Long Island. “The result will be a paralysis of private-sector community investment, which ironically, is the only means to prevent school taxes from skyrocketing.”

The bill stipulates that the board of each of the state’s more than 100 IDAs have seats reserved for “a representative of a local labor organization and either a school district superintendent or a representative of a school board.”

Among Long Island’s eight IDAs, at least five already have a labor representative on their board. The Suffolk County IDA has two, according to a Newsday review of IDA board-member biographies.

In terms of school representatives, at least five IDAs have board members with ties to public or private elementary and secondary educational institutions.

For example, the chair of the Glen Cove IDA is that city’s mayor, Pamela D. Panzenbeck, who taught business and computer education for over 30 years in the Levittown Public Schools. At the Riverhead Town IDA, board secretary Tony Barresi spent 34 years as a teacher and principal in the Huntington Union Free School District, the review shows.

Still, Assemb. Michaelle C. Solages (D-Elmont), the bill’s sponsor, said mandating that every IDA board include representatives of unions and public schools “will improve how [tax] incentives are developed to fit the needs of the entire community. Workers and school districts should not be left behind on these decisions that directly impact them.”

Solages represents the neighborhood around the Green Acres Mall and an adjacent shopping center, which won tax breaks from the Hempstead Town IDA in 2014. Three years later, homeowners denounced the tax incentive package, saying it had caused their school property taxes to increase. The IDA responded by revoking the tax aid, but that decision was ruled as unlawful by a Nassau County judge in 2018.

State Sen. Shelley B. Mayer (D-Yonkers), also a bill sponsor, said, “When public funds or tax benefits accrue to developments, the voice of organized labor should be part of the deliberation. Similarly, when public funds or benefits affect the financial condition of a school district, it is essential their voice is heard as well.”

The IDA trade group “opposes [the legislation] as written,” said its executive director Ryan M. Silva.

If Hochul signs the bill into law, it would go into effect after 180 days.

CORRECTION: Reinvent Albany has taken no position on state legislation that would require industrial development agencies to have representatives of unions and public schools on their boards of directors. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Reinvent Albany's position.

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