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Judge throws out a suit challenging developer’s tax breaks

Developer Renaissance Downtowns plans to build a luxury

Developer Renaissance Downtowns plans to build a luxury apartment complex on a parking lot at Washington and Front streets in Hempstead, shown here on May 19, 2016. Credit: Barry Sloan

A State Supreme Court judge has struck down a challenge by a Hempstead Village councilman to dismiss tax breaks for a proposed apartment complex as part of a $2.5 billion downtown redevelopment project.

Justice Jeffrey S. Brown ruled Wednesday that Plainview-based developer Renaissance Downtowns can proceed with $33 million in tax breaks to build a 336-unit apartment complex on a parking lot across from Hempstead Town Hall at Washington and Front streets.

Hempstead Councilman Don Ryan and five other village residents filed a suit last year against the Hempstead Industrial Development Agency and Renaissance, arguing the tax breaks for the project were illegal and should be revoked by the IDA.

Justice Brown said the lawsuit was “based on a false premise that the Industrial Development Agency may not grant benefits for a commercial project that is residential. “Where, as here, the project promotes employment opportunities and serves to combat economic deterioration in an area served by an industrial Development Agency…”

The IDA voted 9-2 in May to grant a 10-year payment in lieu of taxes for Renaissance and Uniondale developer RXR Reality, with an option to extend the agreement another 10 years for the full $33 million in tax exemptions.

In addition to the apartments, Renaissance is spending $2 million to renovate an existing parking garage. The parking lot has been used by town and village residents and remained off the village tax rolls for the past 50 years until it was transferred with 14 vacant parcels to Renaissance for $8 million.

Renaissance broke ground last month on the first phase of four mixed-use projects along Main Street. Renaissance also plans to add a mixture of shopping and apartments along 17 parcels on Main Street, as well as an entertainment center and movie theater, all centered around the transit hub of train and bus transportation.

Renaissance CEO Don Monti said the project will bring 18,000 jobs to the village.

“This enables us to move forward now,” Monti said. “The decision was the right decision. It is going to create jobs and economic development.”

The new apartment complex is expected to create up to 900 construction jobs and about 11 permanent jobs, according to developers and the IDA.

Ryan criticized Renaissance for only bringing 11 jobs to the village and presenting a plan for apartments ahead of the Main Street Development. He said he would continue to appeal, based on a previous state comptroller ruling.

“I respect the court’s decision. I still contend they’re not authorized under the law,” Ryan said.

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