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Owner of a once-dominant LI office building seeks tax breaks to renovate

The owner of 1 Old Country Rd. in

The owner of 1 Old Country Rd. in Carle Place is seeking tax breaks on renovations. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The owner of a Carle Place office building is requesting tax breaks after his anchor tenant won tax breaks to move to Jericho instead of out of state.

Dr. Shahrokh Abiri is asking for more than $770,250 in tax incentives from the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency to renovate 1 Old Country Rd. He purchased the five-story building and adjacent parking garage in February for $26.5 million.

The IDA board voted unanimously on May 28 to negotiate a tax-break deal with Abiri, a practicing radiologist. Three weeks earlier, his largest tenant, 1-800-Flowers.com Inc., received a deal from the IDA to move to 2 Jericho Plaza.

1-800-Flowers executive Brian McGee said during the May 7 IDA meeting that the Carle Place building lacked collaborative workspaces, technology, ample parking and other amenities needed to retain and attract employees. The retailer rents 80,541 square feet and has made the H-shaped building its headquarters since 2005. 

He said 1-800-Flowers hopes to leave Carle Place for Jericho in May 2021.

Abiri acknowledged his 300,000-square-foot facility needs a major face-lift, including new elevators, cafeteria, lobby and heating and ventilation systems. The 150,000-square-foot garage requires work as well; it once was cited as unsafe by the Town of Hempstead.

Abiri’s DBD Realty Group proposes to spend nearly $14 million on upgrades. Abiri’s daughter, Deborah, said they want “to bring it back up to speed.”

One Old Country Road was briefly Long Island’s largest office building when it opened in 1970 during a construction boom.

DBD Realty’s real estate attorney, Daniel P. Deegan, said last month the building has “deteriorated and declined” over several decades as owners came and went, often defaulting on their mortgages. The building “is going in the wrong direction,” he said.

The vacancy rate is 38% and will climb to 66% when 1-800-Flowers heads east. DBD Realty’s renovation plan will attract new tenants but can only be pursued with tax breaks, Deegan said. “We don’t plan on walking away,” Deegan said. “But if we cannot get the IDA’s assistance, we will have to consider such options as continuing in a marginalized situation or flipping it to someone else.”

IDA board member Anthony Simon, who also leads the Long Island Rail Road’s largest union, said he supports the project with the caveat that construction be done by local workers because of the coronavirus-induced recession. “The last thing I want to see is outside people coming in,” he said.

IDA chairman Richard Kessel agreed, saying DBD Realty must commit to a higher employment level than the building currently has. More than 1,000 people once worked there.

He said the building “could be very attractive to people and companies that are operating in New York City and want to move to Long Island or set up satellite operations" as a result of the pandemic.

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