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Nassau comptroller begins audit over Green Acres Mall tax breaks

Hempstead Town Councilman Bruce Blakeman addresses questions about

Hempstead Town Councilman Bruce Blakeman addresses questions about tax breaks granted by the Hempstead Industrial Development Agency to the Green Acres Mall during a community forum at William L. Buck Elementary School in Valley Stream on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. Photo Credit: Steven Sunshine

The Nassau County comptroller has ordered an audit of the Hempstead Industrial Development Agency’s tax-break program, after breaks granted to a Valley Stream mall led to hundreds of dollars in tax increases for some residents.

Comptroller George Maragos in a statement called the IDA’s $14 million payment in lieu of taxes agreement with the owner of the Green Acres Mall “legally questionable” and a “disservice” to Valley Stream residents.

“We need to provide incentives investments that create real jobs and economic activity, but not on the backs of our hard-pressed taxpayers,” Maragos said in a statement Monday.

Valley Stream school property taxes have increased 4.6 percent to 12.2 percent as a result of the mall’s tax abatement, he said.

Also on Monday, Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino and Councilman Bruce Blakeman said the town planned to sue the IDA to nullify the agency’s agreement with the mall’s owner, California-based Macerich.

A town spokesman did not have a time frame for when the lawsuit would be filed.

Santino and Blakeman said the town plans to demand in its lawsuit that the IDA rescind the PILOT agreement, restore the mall to the tax rolls and hold new public hearings, according to a news release.

Fred Parola, the IDA’s executive director, said on Monday the agency is ready for the audit and lawsuit.

“Anything that adds transparency, we’re open to,” he said, noting that the organization is working to put Green Acres Mall documents online for residents to see.

Politicians and Valley Stream residents have been up in arms in recent weeks over the tax breaks, which include a sales-tax exemption of $6 million, a mortgage-recording tax exemption, and the $14 million PILOT agreement over 10 years — with the option to extend it for five more years — on the mall’s planned $79 million renovation.

The agreement was made in December 2014, but the impact on the tax bills of residents in Valley Stream school districts 13, 24 and 30 is only now showing up.

The IDA has promised to revisit the case and plans at its Wednesday meeting to hire Camoin Associates in Saratoga Springs to complete a second economic-impact analysis of the tax breaks. The results of that study are expected to be released within 30-45 days.

The meeting, which will be held at 9 a.m. at 350 Front St. in Hempstead, is open to the public but will not include time for public comment.

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) and Assemblymembers Brian Curran (R-Lynbrook) and Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont) wrote to the IDA last week, asking that it change the time and location of the meeting to later in the day to make it easier for working Valley Stream residents to attend, but Parola said it’s too late for changes.

He said Wednesday’s meeting is not a hearing where residents can discuss the issue, but rather a regular board meeting. The only action to be taken regarding the Green Acres Mall will be to hire Camoin Associates, he said.


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