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Letter from IDA staff says Green Acres actually hit jobs benchmark

Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, Thursday, Oct.

Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The staff of the Hempstead Town Industrial Development Agency wrote in a letter that the owner of the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream has hit its job creation benchmarks — a move that appears to contradict previous statements by the IDA’s former board.

The letter was released Tuesday as part of a state comptroller’s audit into IDA tax breaks to the mall. The audit did not investigate the mall’s employment; rather it focused on how “inaccurate” budgeting of the tax breaks by a school district lead to increased taxes for Valley Stream residents last year.

IDA staff members, Executive Director Fred Parola and Deputy Executive Director Edie Longo wrote a response letter to the state comptroller’s office about the audit, which mostly vindicated the IDA from blame for the tax hikes.

At the end of the letter, the staff wrote: “Finally, this project has upheld all job commitments thus far, as promised by the Developer to the community.”

The letter, dated Nov. 29, continued: “The Agency’s board, to date, has approved 36 new tenants, which have created 575 new employment positions thus far” as a result of the tax breaks.

But in April, the agency’s former chairman, Arthur Nastre, said that Macerich, the California-based owner of the mall and adjacent shopping center, Green Acres Commons, had “grossly misstated” the number of jobs it would create.

The IDA board then voted to revoke Macerich’s tax breaks, and the developer filed a lawsuit in response in June.

Nastre resigned from the IDA in November, saying in a letter that he had completed his promised year of service on the board. The agency’s staff is full-time and paid, while IDA board members are not compensated and serve at the pleasure of the Hempstead Town Board.

Lawyers in the lawsuit filed their briefs on Friday. A decision or settlement is expected in the coming months now that the audit has been completed.

IDA attorney John Ryan declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday, but said “the documents speak for themselves,” referring to the staff’s letter.

Macerich’s attorneys wrote in their court papers that the IDA’s decision to revoke the tax breaks for the mall and Commons was “nothing more than subterfuge for the IDA’s surrender to political pressure” in the face of controversy over the tax breaks.

The deadline for Macerich to meet certain job creation requirements has not yet hit, the lawyers wrote.

A Macerich representative declined to comment on Tuesday.

The IDA board — which includes three new members following the resignations of Nastre and two other members, as well as the vice chairman’s death — is scheduled to meet on Thursday at Hempstead Town Hall.

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