Hempstead Town’s Industrial Development Agency has hired a Saratoga Springs-based economic development firm to study the effects of the tax breaks the agency granted in 2014 to the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream.
The move comes after an uproar in the Valley Stream community from residents in school districts 13, 24 and 30 saw their tax bills increase $322 and $758 on average this year.
Politicians have blamed the tax increases on tax breaks, granted by the IDA in December 2014, for the Green Acres Mall: a sales-tax exemption of $6 million, a mortgage-recording tax exemption and a $14 million payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, agreement over 10 years — with the option to extend it for five more years — on the mall’s planned $79 million renovation.
At a Wednesday meeting of the IDA, about 150 people came to protest the tax increases, though no public comment was scheduled. The IDA let them speak and ask questions for nearly two hours. The irate crowd, including several politicians, demanded that the seven-member agency freeze their taxes while Camoin Associates completes its report.
“Do you know how many homes you’re destroying?” shouted Rose Eisner, 89, a resident of Valley Stream school district 30, as she walked toward the dais.
The board said it doesn’t have the authority to freeze taxes.
“We are very empathetic, sympathetic, believe me,” said IDA Chairman Theodore P. Sasso Jr. “We are doing everything we possibly can to get to the bottom of it.”
Michael N’dolo, Camoin’s vice president, said Tuesday that several factors might account for the increases: the unusual central high school district, tax revenue from LIPA-owned property and district 30’s budgeting of the portion of the payment-in-lieu-of taxes payment it will receive.
Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos has ordered an audit of the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes deal, while Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino and Councilman Bruce Blakeman have begun taking steps to file a lawsuit against the IDA. The agency is independent, and its seven members are appointed by and can be removed by the Town Board.
A spokesman for the mall’s owner, Macerich, declined to comment.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), who in July lauded Macerich’s “tremendous” improvements to the mall, and Assemb. Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont) have requested that the state comptroller audit the agreement.
“Just like taxpayers, community leaders, school board members and superintendents, my jaw dropped when we learned in September that Valley Stream taxpayers had been hoodwinked by the IDA,” Kaminsky said Wednesday in a statement. “The IDA needs to fix this, and they need to fix it now.”
The IDA hired Camoin Associates to conduct a cost-benefit analysis. The IDA wants to spend no more than $20,000 in the hopes that Camoin Associates will complete its report in about 14 business days.