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Hempstead IDA hires lawyers after rescinding mall tax breaks

The Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream. The

The Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream. The Hempstead Town IDA decides to revoke the tax deal on the property on Thursday, April 27, 2017. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Hempstead Town Industrial Development Authority has hired a law firm to defend its members after they voted to revoke tax breaks for the Green Acres Mall and an adjacent shopping area, and plans to hold a special meeting June 29 to terminate all remaining agreements related to the two developments.

The IDA hired Garden City-based Jaspan Schlesinger LLP on June 2 and is to vote to approve the move retroactively during its regular meeting on Thursday, IDA documents show. The law firm’s contract ends Dec. 31 and the fee will be a maximum of $225 an hour.

In addition, a notice posted on the agency’s website said the IDA is to hold a “special meeting” regarding the “consideration of the termination of all agreements related to” the Green Acres Mall and the adjacent shopping center, the Green Acres Commons.

IDA attorney John Ryan did not immediately have a comment Tuesday about the special meeting or what other agreements the IDA has with California-based Macerich, which owns the Valley Stream mall and commons.

In April, the IDA board revoked the tax breaks, including payments-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, agreements for the mall and commons after community furor. Valley Stream taxpayers and elected officials blamed the mall’s tax breaks for a hike in their school taxes, though the IDA said school budgeting practices were to blame for the increase.

IDA officials cited allegedly “grossly misstated” job creation by Macerich as their reason for revoking the tax breaks, but at the time IDA officials could not answer questions about whether the move would be retroactive and when the properties would return to the tax rolls. The IDA had said it expected Macerich to file a lawsuit in response.

In a statement Tuesday, Macerich senior vice president Ken Volk said Green Acres had fulfilled all its promises, including bringing jobs and economic development to the area, and said it would adhere to the agreement with the IDA.

“School districts in the Town of Hempstead and other governmental agencies can rest assured that Green Acres intends to make all payments under the legally binding agreement,” Volk wrote. “The revocation of the PILOT and any subsequent attempt to terminate the agreement are legally unjustifiable and factually unsubstantiated.”

The four Valley Stream school districts also have become embroiled in the controversy. The central high school district has authorized its lawyers to sue one of its three elementary districts, which is withholding $2 million and wants to see changes in budgeting practices related to PILOTs.

The school districts also have lobbied the Nassau County Legislature to return the mall and commons to the county’s tax rolls.


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