Seven Suffolk lawmakers Thursday called on the county’s Industrial Development Agency to enforce its “hire local, buy local” requirements for building projects that receive tax breaks.
“We are here to question why we are investing in projects where they are bringing in labor from out of state,” said Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), the majority leader.
The lawmakers — six of whom are members of the Suffolk County Legislature’s majority caucus — were responding to allegations leveled by several unions that the Siena Village housing development in Smithtown is being refurbished by mostly out-of-state contractors and workers.
The complex for low-income seniors was purchased last year from Catholic Health Services of Long Island by GHC Housing Partners of Sherman Oaks, California.
The transaction was aided by up to $606,000 in IDA tax breaks and $62 million in tax exempt bonds issued under the authority of the county’s Economic Development Corp., a sister agency of the IDA.
Gregory Perlman, GHC’s CEO, has said $5.5 million of the $9 million renovation project is going to local contractors, who have hired Long Islanders and paid them the prevailing wage rate. He has said he believes his company is in “full compliance” with the IDA’s Long Island First policy.
That policy states, “To the greatest extent possible project applicants should consider purchasing goods and services from Long Island based providers . . . to the greatest extent possible all employment opportunities should be provided to Long Island residents first.”
IDA chairman Joanne Minieri told the lawmakers, who attended the IDA’s monthly meeting, that Suffolk aided GHC in order to keep Siena Village exclusively for poor seniors.
She also said GHC “is in compliance with our documents now. If they are found not to be in compliance, we will act accordingly.”
The IDA and economic development corporation could attempt to rescind the tax breaks, though the GHC CEO has said if that happens, Siena Village would face foreclosure and its residents would be displaced.
Five union leaders, two of whom serve on the IDA board, questioned whether GHC is paying the prevailing wage and using licensed contractors. Robert English, business agent for Local 66 of the General Building and Construction Laborers union, formally requested a wage probe.
Later, IDA executive director Anthony J. Catapano said the agency “will take all allegations seriously and will continue to investigate.”
IDA attorney William Wexler said the IDA cannot compel businesses to solely use local contractors and workers without violating the U.S. Constitution.
“We have a Long Island First policy but we can’t use it as an extortion policy,” Wexler told Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) during the meeting.
She responded, “We are not extortionists . . . We support Suffolk County taxpayers who pay the sales tax, who pay the property tax, who are entitled to be able to work.”