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Long Beach ‘Superblock’ property faces uncertain future

Parcel between Long Beach and Riverside boulevards in

Parcel between Long Beach and Riverside boulevards in Long Beach, Tuesday Aug. 23, 2016. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

The Long Beach oceanfront property known as the Superblock, which has remained a two-block swath of gravel and concrete for 40 years, will stay vacant for a while longer after the most recent development plans failed and no new proposal has taken its place.

Plans to build two 15-floor towers with 522 luxury apartments overlooking the boardwalk ended last month when the Nassau Industrial Development Agency denied an application for $109 million in tax breaks for Manhattan-based developer iStar Financial.

Opponents to the tax breaks and supporters of the project agree development needs to take place, but differ over what it should cost the community.

“It has to be consistent with the character of the neighborhood as it currently exists and not overly taxed as a burden to the city and infrastructure,” said Charles Peknic, a Long Beach attorney representing the Long Beach Neighbors Against Overdevelopment.

Representatives of iStar have not commented on their plans for the property, which the firm purchased for $54 million nine years ago. They have said they cannot build without tax breaks.

IDA officials have not said if any new applications have been submitted for the 6-acre property between Long Beach and Riverside boulevards.

Long Beach officials said they still want to see the property developed and will ensure it is maintained until it is.

“The city’s interests continue to be best served by seeking thoughtful redevelopment of the Superblock ... that will bring revenue, jobs and support for our downtown that makes economic sense,” Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman said.

iStar’s first proposal for $129 million in tax breaks and, later, $109 million in tax breaks over 20 years, was met by widespread opposition from the community and elected officials who thought too much was being given away, including Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato.

D’Amato said this week that developer promised a profit from the buildings and doesn’t need tax breaks for oceanfront property. He said he supported a development of the property, but didn’t think developers needed tax breaks from the IDA at the cost to Nassau County, Long Beach or the school district.

“They (iStar) should keep their promise. They said they could develop it and said they had the money,” D’Amato said. “At some point they’re going to have to recoup their investment so they’ll either go ahead or sell the project.”

One of the largest proponents of the project was organized labor, including the Building and Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk Counties, which had a labor agreement for local workers to build the apartment towers.

Council President Richard O’Kane said he is still hopeful the Superblock property will be developed and bring 500 construction jobs to Long Beach.

“They’ve invested too much time in that project to walk away and see it only collect dust,” O’Kane said. “I hope every day it’s going to go. It will help everybody and the people who live there. I haven’t given up hope on our jobs.”

Superblock Over the Years

February 1979: City holds first meeting on a new project development for Superblock.

February 1998: City designates Parkoff organization as exclusive developer. Parkoff never proceeds.

November 1998: City Council designates Superblock a blighted area.

September 2000: City re-advertises for a developer and gets five proposals.

November 2001: Philip Pilevsky is selected as lead developer.

May 2007: Pilevsky defaults on property mortgage, and iStar assumes control.

January 2014: iStar proposes two 15-story towers, which is approved by zoning board

March 2015: iStar applies for $129 million tax break over 25 years

September 2015: Nassau County IDA declines to hear $129 million application, citing public opposition

January 2016: iStar reapplies to the IDA for $109 million in tax breaks

July 2016: Nassau County IDA rejects application for iStar’s tax breaks

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