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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Proposed tax break for Long Beach project is too much

The Superblock property between Riverside Boulevard and Long

The Superblock property between Riverside Boulevard and Long Beach Boulevard in Long Beach is seen in this photo from Monday May 11, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Joseph J. Kearney, head of Nassau's Industrial Development Agency, said Monday the IDA would take a long, hard look at a request for $128.6 million in tax breaks from developers seeking to build a luxury apartment and retail complex on Long Beach's too-long-vacant Superblock.

And well the IDA should.

Because developers iStar Financial Inc. and AvalonBay Communities Inc. are seeking far too much. And -- with a request that the breaks continue for a quarter of a century -- far too long.

"We had a hearing to get the temperature of the community," Kearney said, referring to a meeting on the request last week that drew some 400 residents. "And that temperature was well over 98.6."

But, really, why would anyone be surprised that Long Beach residents would blister at the notion of essentially having to subsidize an oceanfront development?

Maybe the request might have flown a decade ago. But this is Long Beach, post-superstorm Sandy.

As it is, too many properties look as if the storm raged through two months ago, rather than almost 21/2 years ago. In some instances, residents stopped rebuilding after exhausting their savings; in others, frustrated property owners still are awaiting funding from New York Rising to get things moving again.

Last month, in fact, 11 Long Beach parcels were among the 150 homes damaged by Sandy and other storms bought up by New York State and offered at auction for significantly less than their pre-storm value.

It's against this very real, desperate backdrop that the developers' request has to be considered.

Development of the Superblock, located next to the boardwalk, is important. It will bring new residents, businesses and, according to the developers' application, 468 permanent jobs paying between $30,000 and $45,000 a year.

But the request also includes tax breaks that over 25 years would add up to $128.6 million. That's great for developers, who would get the savings; that's rough for Long Beach residents, who would pick up that cost -- and for the city, which would lose sorely needed revenue.

The developers say that the project -- which would include two 15-story towers with 522 luxury apartments and 11,500 square feet of retail space -- can't be built without IDA help.

OK. But should the IDA -- and by extension Long Beach residents -- have to help out that much?

To be fair, other Nassau residential developments have received IDA help. They were built for seniors or residents seeking workforce housing, mostly in neighborhoods near train stations.

But a big tax break for the Long Beach developers, over so long a period for an oceanfront, high-end development -- yes, even with its comparatively few affordable units -- seems a stretch.

Kearney stressed the IDA has not made a decision on the developers' application, saying that the agency would launch its own in-depth review.

That's fine. Because that means there's also time to find some compromise that would get the project up and running with community support.

The city still is making its way back from Sandy, and more tax money will be needed to complete the job.

This seems like the wrong deal for this particular place at this particular time.

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