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Valley Stream Mazda gets tax break because of ‘tourist’ exception

Valley Stream Mazda, which is expanding and has

Valley Stream Mazda, which is expanding and has received tax breaks from the Nassau County IDA, is shown on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, in Valley Stream. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County has given tax breaks to a fifth automobile dealership, citing an exception to the 2013 state law prohibiting such help for retailers.

The county’s Industrial Development Agency said last week the dealership, Valley Stream Mazda, merits help because it has pledged not to move to Queens and will begin selling and leasing new vehicles. It has been selling used cars and providing maintenance on Lincoln and Mercury models.

The dealership, located at 676 W. Merrick Rd., derives more than half of its sales from New York City, thereby qualifying for an exception from the state prohibition against aiding retailers, according to IDA executive director Joseph J. Kearney. Some have called the provision “the tourist destination exception.”

Kearney estimated the dealership would generate $1.5 million in sales tax revenue per year for cash-strapped Nassau. “The county is in real need for as much sales-tax generation as we can help them accrue,” he said.

The dealership plans to spend $4.5 million to buy the land it sits on and to renovate a 15,500-square-foot building.

Thirty-five employees will be hired and be paid, on average, $55,000 per year, excluding benefits. The payroll currently totals 13 people who, at the IDA’s insistence, will be able to apply for the 35 new positions, officials said.

In return, the IDA provided a sales-tax exemption of up to $58,200 and $36,200 off the mortgage recording tax. The property tax rate will be frozen for three years, followed by increases of 1.56 percent in each of the next nine years.

“If we didn’t do this, there would be another shuttered facility in the community,” Kearney said.

Dealership president Joe Vultaggio confirmed he had considered shutting down the operation a few years ago after Ford Motor Co. reduced the number of Lincoln dealers and ended the Mercury brand. Vultaggio secured a Lincoln dealership in Jamaica but said he kept the Valley Stream location to provide maintenance services to his Lincoln and Mercury customers, and to sell used vehicles.

“I could put Mazda in Queens or Nassau,” he told the IDA board of directors. “I’d like to keep my business going in Nassau instead of having everything in Queens.”

Valley Stream Mazda is across the street from Bical Chevrolet, the first dealership helped by Nassau after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo successfully lobbied the State Legislature to exclude retailers from receiving IDA tax breaks.

Separately, Safeguard Self-Storage secured backing last week to build its fifth location in the county on the site of a vacant warehouse at 499 Ocean Ave. in East Rockaway.

The $10 million project would create two jobs that pay, on average, $37,150 per year including medical and retirement benefits.

The IDA granted a sales-tax exemption of up to $414,500 and a property tax break that freezes the tax rate for five years, followed by 1.66 percent increases in each of the next five years and 2 percent in the final five years.

Safeguard attorney Chris J. Coschignano said, “We could not do this project without the IDA benefits.”

The IDA has backed six self-storage facilities in recent years, including a Safeguard location in Massapequa in 2014.

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