The new Hempstead Town Industrial Development Agency chairman said the board would consider the idea of revoking the tax breaks granted to the Green Acres Mall — which some have blamed for steep tax increases for Valley Stream residents.
At the first meeting of the newly constituted IDA board on Thursday, Chairman Arthur Nastre promised to hold a public meeting in the village next month to hear residents’ concerns about the IDA’s agreement with the mall’s owner, California-based Macerich.
An exact date and location has not been decided, Nastre said, but he promised it would be held in the evening in Valley Stream.
“The purpose of the hearing is to take testimony on the question of whether we should revoke the PILOT,” Nastre told News 12 after the meeting, referring to Macerich’s payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with the IDA that taxpayers and politicians claim caused steep school tax hikes for Valley Stream residents.
Former members of the IDA who granted the tax incentives, however, maintain the increases could be attributed to other factors, including school budgeting practices.
Six of the seven previous IDA board members had resigned last month amid the Hempstead town supervisor’s threats to fire them over the mall agreement.
A spokesman for Macerich declined to comment on the board’s move Thursday, and instead issued a statement from the company’s senior vice president, Ken Volk: “We are proud that the Green Acres project creates 670 union construction jobs and over 800 permanent jobs, increases the sales tax revenue, and has already made a number of critical safety and infrastructure improvements and brought new stores and more visitors than ever before.”
A handful of Valley Stream residents attended the IDA’s meeting on Thursday, as well as Nassau County Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Elmont) and a spokeswoman for state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach).
At the meeting, Solages called for the tax breaks to be reversed and wondered if the previous IDA board violated its charter.
But some IDA experts questioned the legality of overturning the tax breaks — calling the move unprecedented in the absence of an error from the applicant — and said it might open the IDA up for a lawsuit from the mall’s owner. The Macerich spokesman would not comment on the potential for a lawsuit Thursday.
“I don’t know how you revoke it saying, ‘oh, we don’t like this now,’” said William Wexler, an attorney for IDAs in Babylon Town and Suffolk County. “I don’t know how they can revoke or clawback a contract.”
Brian McMahon, executive director of the New York State Economic Development Council, a trade group representing IDAs across the state, said “lacking some error or wrongdoing,” he’s not aware of any instance where a PILOT agreement has been revoked.
But John Ryan, an attorney for the Hempstead Town IDA, said the IDA board can do “whatever they deem in their best interest they should do.”
“I hope we’re not sued,” he added. “If we’re sued, we’ll deal with lawsuits.”
IDA board member Steven Raiser said in a telephone interview Thursday evening that the new board wants to hear all of the information before making a decision.
“The people have spoken and they want us to reconsider it, so that’s what we’re going to do,” he said.