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SUNY Old Westbury seeks off-campus Start-Up NY zone

The building at 510 Grumman Rd. West in

The building at 510 Grumman Rd. West in Bethpage, now home to the Long Island Forum for Technology and Morrelly Homeland Security Center, on Wednesday, July 29, 2015. Credit: Howard Schnapp

SUNY Old Westbury is seeking approval for a Start-Up NY tax-free zone in Bethpage for technology companies, officials confirmed this week.

Old Westbury has signed an agreement with the Long Island Forum for Technology that would pave the way for a tax-free zone at 510 Grumman Rd. West, which is owned by LIFT.

The space is equipped with work stations and furniture used by defense giant Northrop Grumman until it downsized its local operation. The state's top Start-Up NY official, Leslie F. Whatley, has called the facility "ideal" for a zone.

If Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing Start-Up NY, approves Old Westbury's proposal, it would become the first local college to have a zone off campus. The others are at Stony Brook University, Farmingdale State College and LIU Post.

Other local colleges that have applied for tax-free zones include Hofstra University, Nassau Community College and Suffolk County Community College.

As envisioned by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Start-Up NY seeks to attract new and expanding businesses to college campuses with the promise of not paying state and local taxes for up to 10 years. Their employees would not pay state income taxes for as long as 10 years. In return, the companies must collaborate with professors and students on research and employment.

"Start-Up NY is a powerful program that will, over time, be a strong component of a growing, vibrant economy on Long Island," Old Westbury president Calvin O. Butts III said Wednesday. "We are working through the details carefully to ensure we have the greatest chance for success as a college and community."

Old Westbury has submitted an "affiliation agreement" with the Applied Science Foundation for Homeland Security, a LIFT affiliate, to SUNY for approval. The agreement is needed for Old Westbury to apply for a Start-Up NY zone.

"Our campus has no vacant space in existing facilities, which led us to look for partners," said Old Westbury spokesman Michael Kinane.

LIFT officials said a Start-Up NY zone would further the group's mission to help manufacturers and other businesses to improve operations through the use of technology.

While the zone would initially be 5,870 square feet, LIFT executive director Bill Wahlig said he hopes it will eventually occupy about 30,000 square feet on the building's third floor.

He said the proposed zone would likely attract cybersecurity tenants because the building also is home to the Morrelly Homeland Security Center, established with a $25 million state grant. He said he could see information technology firms moving to the zone as well.

"We're really excited about this . . . Old Westbury is the closest campus to us and they love the space," Wahlig said. "I think this will create jobs, this will be successful."

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