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Lufthansa moves Americas headquarters, seeks tax breaks

Lufthansa's East Meadow location, seen on Thursday.

Lufthansa's East Meadow location, seen on Thursday. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Lufthansa, the largest group of airlines in Europe, is moving its Americas headquarters from East Meadow to Uniondale, and is seeking tax breaks for the project, officials said.

The German company has been on Long Island since the early 1970s, when it shifted its Americas office to 1640 Hempstead Tpke. from Manhattan’s Park Avenue to save money, according to published reports at the time. The East Meadow building, which is six stories of glass and steel, overlooks Eisenhower Park.

Cost savings also are behind the company’s proposed 1-mile relocation to two floors in the RXR Plaza office complex across from NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum, company attorney Arthur Molins said last week. Lufthansa had considered locations in Long Island City, Queens, where JetBlue has its headquarters, at Kennedy Airport and in Suffolk County, he told a meeting of the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency.

“After nearly 50 years, our building, which we own, is no longer efficient,” Molins said. “The aviation industry is very cost sensitive. … The [profit] margins are very thin. It would probably be more cost efficient if we lease space rather than manage a building.”

He said all 206 Lufthansa employees will move to the new office. The airline has 15,000 workers in North America and about 4,000 in South America. Besides its namesake airline, the company operates Austrian, Brussels, Eurowings and Swiss airlines.

The Americas headquarters is Lufthansa’s largest office outside of Germany, according to Molins.

The IDA board voted unanimously to begin negotiating a sales-tax exemption on the purchase of construction materials, furniture and equipment for the new office, which will cost $5.7 million to outfit.

In 2007 Lufthansa won tax breaks for improvements to its East Meadow building; they expired on Dec. 31.

Molins said Lufthansa wants to stay in Nassau because 75 percent of its employees live in the county. That wasn’t the case when the company moved from Manhattan and had to provide employees with bus service to and from the Long Island Rail Road and a subway station in Jamaica, Queens.

Over the years, Lufthansa has been noted for its employee perks. It was one of the first businesses on Long Island to adopt flexible work schedules, called gleitzeit.

IDA chairman Richard Kessel said last week, “We want to keep companies like Lufthansa here in Nassau County … especially on the throes of what happened with Amazon.” On Feb. 14, the online retailer scrapped plans for a second headquarters, in Queens, after opposition from some local politicians and liberal activists.

“We are very glad that you have decided to stay,” Kessel told the Lufthansa lawyer. “And we are glad to help you in any way that we can.”

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