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Six of seven Hempstead IDA board members resign

Most members of the Hempstead Town Industrial Development

Most members of the Hempstead Town Industrial Development Agency board resigned Monday, after an outcry over tax breaks the agency granted to the Green Acres Mall. Oct. 26, 2016 Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Six of the seven members of the Hempstead Town Industrial Development Agency board resigned Monday — a move that follows an outcry over tax breaks the agency granted to the Green Acres Mall.

The resignations of Chairman Theodore P. Sasso Jr., vice chairman Ari Brown, treasurer Jonathan Kohan, secretary Dan Grodotzke and members Raymond Maguire and Ann DeMichael means only Florestano Girardi remains on the board.

The IDA had come under fire after Valley Stream residents saw school tax increases of 4.6 percent to 12.2 percent that some have blamed on the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, agreement the agency granted to Macerich, the California-based owner of the mall. The IDA maintains the tax increases are due to multiple factors.

The IDA board released a statement Monday explaining the resignations.

“The board chose to resign because of the efforts of certain public officials to delegitimize and misrepresent the facts regarding the Green Acres project,” the statement read.

On Monday, Saratoga Springs-based Camoin Associates released a new cost-benefit analysis report to examine the effect of the tax breaks. The report, commissioned by the IDA board, found that tax hikes are not “due solely” to the PILOT and said several factors are responsible.

In a statement, Ken Volk, senior vice president at Macerich, said: “We are pleased to learn that Green Acres Mall accounts for only a small fraction of the property tax increase.” He said the project will create 670 construction jobs and more than 800 permanent jobs.

Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino had called for the town board on Tuesday to vote to remove the IDA members from their positions. With the resignations, Santino now will ask the town board to appoint new IDA board members, a town spokesman said.

The spokesman did not have information on who would be appointed to the positions, which are unpaid and do not receive health or retirement benefits.

Girardi, who was not a member at the time the tax breaks were granted, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos has subpoenaed documents from the IDA and the town for an audit. The subpoenas are due back to Maragos on Wednesday.

Nassau County Legis. Carrie Solages (D-Elmont) said the resignations are only part of the fix.

“The real solution is to have a new board that reverses the decision or at least allows the public to have input,” he said, noting the new board could also ask the courts for an injunction.

Valley Stream schools officials have said they never received official word from the IDA about how much of the PILOT they would receive, forcing them to underestimate their portion of the payments by nearly $3 million — which may have been passed on to taxpayers.

“I am hopeful that whoever is on the board, that they will work with school districts in a way that does not have us doing the guessing game,” said Nicholas Stirling, superintendent of Valley Stream School District 30, where the mall is located.

The IDA granted tax incentives to Macerich in December 2014 for the mall’s $79 million expansion and the construction of Green Acres Commons, which is adjacent to the mall. Those incentives included a sales tax exemption and PILOT for each project.

The PILOT payments are less than the mall’s $19 million in property taxes on parcels included in the PILOT that it had paid per year, which Macerich is challenging in court.

With James T. Madore

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