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Hempstead IDA member and chairman resign, leaving no quorum

Hempstead IDA board chairman Arthur Nastre, left, on

Hempstead IDA board chairman Arthur Nastre, left, on Feb. 16, 2017, and board member John Ferretti Jr. in 2016, at meetings in Hempstead. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Two members of the Hempstead Town Industrial Development Agency, including the board’s chairman, have resigned, leaving the agency with just three members, not enough for a quorum.

Chairman Arthur Nastre and board member John Ferretti Jr. submitted separate letters to the town board announcing that they were stepping down effective Nov. 24, according to copies of the letters obtained by Newsday through a public records request.

Their resignations follow the death of agency vice chairman William Hendrick in October and board member Steven Raiser’s resignation in May for his child’s birth.

Nastre wrote that when he was appointed to the IDA a year ago, he only promised to be on the board for a year.

“I have fulfilled that commitment, and have decided not to continue serving as a member,” he wrote.

Ferretti, a newly elected Nassau County legislator who cannot serve in both posts, thanked Town Supervisor Anthony Santino and the town board for the opportunity to be a member of the IDA, which considers and awards tax breaks in exchange for job creation and economic development. Members of the IDA are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the town board.

The remaining IDA board members are the Rev. Dr. Eric C. Mallette, pastor at Greater Second Baptist Church of Freeport and part-time town employee; Florestano Girardi, who owns dry cleaners and laundries; and Gerilyn Smith, the director of guidance for the Roosevelt school district. IDA board members are not paid.

IDA attorney John Ryan confirmed Wednesday that the board no longer has a quorum.

“I hope government moves forward and they appoint people to the board,” Ryan said, adding that the status of the IDA’s next meeting in December is unclear.

Hempstead Town spokesman Mike Deery said in a statement: “The Town thanks the outgoing members of the local IDA for their dedicated service.”

The board, minus Girardi and Smith, was appointed by the Hempstead Town Board a year ago in the wake of a controversy over tax breaks granted to Macerich, the California-based owner of the Green Acres Mall. Elected officials and taxpayers last year blamed the IDA action for increased taxes. IDA officials, however, maintain that Valley Stream School District 30’s budgeting practices are at fault.

The IDA board that approved the mall’s tax breaks, known as a Payment in Lieu of Taxes or PILOT, resigned en masse before they could be fired by the town board following threats to do so by Santino. Girardi was appointed to the previous IDA board after the tax breaks were authorized and Smith was added to the new board in February.

The new IDA board voted in April to revoke Macerich’s tax breaks, citing job creation figures that were allegedly “grossly misstated.”

The resignations come in the midst of an audit into the Green Acres deal by the state comptroller’s office, which is investigating the IDA and District 30, and a lawsuit by Macerich filed against the IDA after the board rescinded the deal. A tax grievance case is also pending.

The audit is expected to be released in the coming weeks. Appearances in the court cases have been adjourned until next month.

Town Supervisor-elect Laura Gillen said in a statement the tax break controversies “are only further evidence that our new administration should appoint the next board.”

“I look forward to working with the Town Council to choose members based on their expertise and competence, rather than political affiliations,” she said.

Ferretti posted on Twitter Wednesday that he is “very proud of what the IDA Board has accomplished over the last year including the implementation of additional notice and appraisal requirements, increasing transparency, bringing business and jobs to the TOH [Town of Hempstead], while protecting the tax payers.”

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