Industrial Development Agencies must livestream over the internet their board meetings and public hearings, and post video recordings to their websites under a bill signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
The new law goes into effect on Jan. 1 and covers more than 100 IDAs across the state, including eight on Long Island.
The measure comes in response to tax breaks awarded by the Hempstead Town IDA to support construction of the Green Acres Commons strip plaza in Valley Stream and improvements to the adjacent Green Acres Mall in 2015. One of the affected school districts miscalculated the impact of the tax breaks, leading to a one-year spike in property taxes for homeowners in 2016-17.
After an outcry from homeowners and an investigation by the state comptroller, homeowners saw their tax bills fall in the subsequent year.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky and Assemb. Michaelle C. Solages represent the affected homeowners and sponsored the bill in their respective houses.
“Like any similar governmental body, the public should be engaged in [IDA] decision-making, and this law will easily enable that to happen," Kaminsky said Tuesday.
Solages said, “While constituents may want to attend their local IDA meeting, they cannot always be physically present to do so. Livestreaming will enable IDAs throughout the state to increase civic engagement as well as allow constituents to view meetings at their own convenience.”
IDAs grant tax breaks to expanding businesses in return for promised job creation and investment. They already publicize public hearings on applications for tax incentives via legal notices in newspapers and announcements on their websites. However, the hearings and board meetings often take place on weekdays when many residents are working.
The new law requires IDAs to post recordings of board meetings and public hearings on their websites within five business days of the sessions taking place. The recordings must be archived for at least five years.
"Shining a light on the IDAs will help residents understand how Payments in Lieu of Taxes [PILOTs] impact our communities,” Valley Stream resident Margaret Zydor said on Tuesday, referring to the partial taxes paid each year by companies receiving IDA aid.
The New York State Economic Development Council, which represents IDAs to the state government, initially opposed the legislation, calling it an undue burden on agencies in rural communities and those with few employees.
Council executive director Ryan M. Silva said it “has already begun working with our members to develop best practices around livestreaming and recording board meetings and public hearings.”
Cuomo, in announcing his approval of the bill, said, “Most New Yorkers don't have time to attend [IDA] meetings and participate in the process. This new measure will help foster civic engagement and get more residents involved in the meetings and hearings that will ultimately have a huge impact on the future of their communities."