Good Afternoon
Good Afternoon
Long IslandNassau

LI unions, community leaders oppose tax breaks for Coliseum developer

Developer Bruce Ratner addressing the media with Nassau

Developer Bruce Ratner addressing the media with Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, Town Supervisor Kate Murray and and other officials about his plans for Nassau Coliseum at Town Hall in Hempstead during a press conference April 14, 2015. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Uniondale civic leaders and labor officials called on the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency Thursday to reject more than $4.4 million in tax breaks requested by developer Bruce Ratner for his overhaul of the Nassau Coliseum.

Ratner, who expects to begin renovating the arena next month, is asking for $3.37 million in sales tax exemptions to pay for equipment, construction materials and furnishings and a $1.1 million reduction in mortgage recording taxes.

But residents who live near the Coliseum said the tax breaks should be withheld until Ratner agrees to make improvements to the community.

"I object to Ratner looking for any more perks from this county," said Martha-Ann Brady of the Greater Uniondale Area Action Coalition.

The coalition has pressed Ratner to sign an agreement pledging $10 million for the expansion of a Uniondale community center, the demolition of abandoned homes and some streetscape improvements.

Ratner declined to fund any off-site projects, but pledged to provide the community with discounted tickets to events and jobs and internships at the arena and its surrounding retail-and-entertainment complex.

Ratner's IDA application said the tax breaks are needed to "control the costs of constructing and operating the project and attracting the high-end retailers and famous performers that will transform the aging and obsolete site into Long Island's premier entertainment destination."

The IDA's five-member board will vote on the application at its meeting on Tuesday.

The application said Ratner, the executive chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies in Brooklyn, would not continue with the $261 million project without the IDA's assistance.

But Laura Schultz of Syosset said the tax breaks are not fair to the more than 2,500 Coliseum employees who will lose their jobs during the renovation. "People lose their jobs and then are being asked to subsidize renovation," Schultz said.

Labor officials, who have backed the Coliseum development, charged that Ratner wants union employees to accept a 20 percent wage cut to participate in the project. "Why should Ratner get a tax break if he's not going to pay the prevailing wage?" asked Anthony Macagnone of the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters.

Ratner has promised to use union labor for the project and has been negotiating a Project Labor Agreement, which spells out the conditions of a collective bargaining pact between the developer and the unions.

Ratner's lease with the county stipulates that the arena renovation work is subject to the Project Labor Agreement, but that he is not required to use union labor for the interior of the retail-and-entertainment complex.

A person familiar with the negotiations said Ratner has agreed to use unions for all phases of the project if labor reduces their price on the entire development by 20 percent.Forest City's lease with Nassau requires Ratner to make annual payments to the county totaling at least $195 million, with the $4.4 million annual minimum payment rising by 10 percent every five years.

The IDA application does not cover the retail-and-entertainment complex, but agency officials expect Ratner to eventually seek assistance to complete that second phase of construction.

Nassau IDA executive director Joseph Kearney said the board would "continue to do our due diligence and our economic analysis." He declined to comment on the prospects for approval of the tax breaks.

Nassau top stories