Former LIPA chief Richard Kessel was elected chairman of the board of directors of the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency on Wednesday during the agency’s first meeting since the Jan. 1 inauguration of Laura Curran as county executive.
Curran, a Democrat, shook hands with IDA board members before the meeting began.
A day earlier she had called on the independent agency to stop giving tax breaks to automobile dealerships and self-storage facilities, to boost transparency and to encourage developers to use local construction workers on building projects.
Kessel’s election wasn’t contested. The other IDA board members are bankers Amy Flores, Lewis M. Warren and Timothy Williams, union leaders Christopher Fusco and Anthony Simon and restaurateur John Coumatos.
Kessel helped broker a compromise between Curran and the County Legislature’s Republican majority on the makeup of the IDA board. Curran had wanted to replace the entire board but settled for four new faces and three holdovers from her predecessors Republican Edward Mangano and Democrat Thomas Suozzi.
Kessel said the new board “brings experience and some new perspectives to the IDA, and I think the blending of that is going to be very well done.”
He also vowed to implement Curran’s twin goals of keeping businesses in Nassau and attracting new ones to expand the county’s tax base. He asked IDA executive director Joseph J. Kearney and other IDA staff to examine Curran’s proposed changes and recommend actions for the board.
Curran, responding to criticism from homeowners, business owners and politicians, wants the IDA to stop using the “tourism exception” to a state law barring tax breaks for retail businesses. Since 2014 the IDA has used the exception to aid three car dealerships in Valley Stream and Lynbrook, where more than half the buyers live in New York City.
She also opposes giving assistance to self-storage facilities because they create few jobs.
County comptroller Jack Schnirman is conducting an audit of the IDA. Kearney said, “We have cooperated fully with the comptroller’s requests…We’re always open, transparent and cooperative with any investigating agency.”