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Alfonse D’Amato opposes tax break for Long Beach apartments

Karl Frey, an executive at iSTAR Financial, presents

Karl Frey, an executive at iSTAR Financial, presents a proposal for two towers in Long Beach on May 13, 2015. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

A former U.S. senator and about 1,000 others attended or tried to attend a Nassau County Industrial Development Agency hearing Wednesday night on iStar Financial’s application for $109 million in tax breaks over 20 years to build two 17-floor luxury oceanfront apartment buildings.

Former New York Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, who lives in Lido Beach, which is served by the Long Beach school district, was opposed to the tax breaks. He said iStar never mentioned needing a tax break until after the project was approved.

“No, they said they would be ready to build nine days after the approval, but they didn’t,” he said.

The application states that iStar, working with Plainview contractor E.W. Howell, plans to invest $336 million to build 522 apartments in the 110-foot-tall towers. The bottom two floors would include parking and 11,000 square feet of retail space along the Long Beach boardwalk between Long Beach and Riverside boulevards.

The project has met fierce resistance from residents and Long Island elected officials, including Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and Legis. Denise Ford (R-Long Beach), who have criticized the high tax breaks. Ford and Long Beach school board president Roy Lester were among the throng of people who tried to attend the meeting. Union construction workers also were in attendance.

Lester said the school district would end up getting a payment of $652,000 a year instead of $4.2 million if the developer paid the full tax.

Ford said she opposed the tax break but wondered if the developer would compromise for a 10-year deal instead of the 20 years sought.

“They indicated they were not interested,” she said.

Anthony Eramo, vice president of the city council, said: “I see immediate and long-term benefits, including the apprenticeship program.”

Clarice Kennedy, of Long Beach, said she supported the tax break because building the 522 apartments and 972 parking spots for the two buildings would help keep young people in Long Beach.

“We don’t provide residential property in our community,” she said.

Officials with iStar have said the project cannot go forward without Nassau County tax exemptions.

An earlier application for $129 million in tax breaks over 25 years was scrapped by the IDA without a vote after it was rejected as too expensive by more than 300 residents at a June public hearing. Residents have also complained about the project’s effect on already limited parking and blocked ocean views.

The new application asks the IDA for $99.6 million in property tax exemptions and about $10 million in mortgage recording and sales tax relief.

Developers have touted the project as an economic boon to Long Beach, pledging $119 million in new economic activity for the city and $4.8 million in sales tax for Nassau County. If the project is approved, work could begin in April and be completed in about three years.

Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman and Long Beach school officials have asked the IDA to complete a cost-benefit analysis before the hearing, but Nassau IDA officials have said they were waiting to receive public input before drafting a report.

City Council members have remained neutral on the project, but endorsed developing the property with a PILOT — payment in lieu of taxes — in a 2014 settlement ending a 30-year lawsuit. The city will receive $4 million as part of a community benefit agreement for infrastructure improvements once the first tower is built.

Developers have said the project will spend $110 million on labor with 2,200 construction jobs and 450 permanent jobs.

With John Asbury

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