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Alfonse D’Amato asks Nassau to stop, probe Superblock tax breaks

Former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato urges the Nassau

Former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato urges the Nassau County Legislature to investigate tax breaks for a controversial Long Beach apartment project on Monday, May 23, 2016, in Mineola. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato urged Nassau lawmakers Monday to halt and investigate the county Industrial Development Agency’s consideration of $109 million in tax breaks for a controversial Long Beach apartment project.

D’Amato made the request in a rare appearance at the county legislature’s meeting in Mineola — where lawmakers also approved a bill disqualifying companies from county contracts if they participate in a political movement to boycott Israeli goods and services.

After sitting through more than an hour of public comments backing the pro-Israel bill, D’Amato criticized the IDA over a tax exemption application for the “Superblock” development along the Long Beach boardwalk. The IDA board is set to consider the application at its meeting on Wednesday.

“Without as much as a ‘Stick ’em up’ announcement, the IDA in three days is about to rob the City of Long Beach, the taxpayers of the county and the taxpayers of the school district,” D’Amato, a Republican who resides in nearby Lido Beach, told lawmakers.

Manhattan-based iStar Financial plans to spend $336 million to construct 522 luxury apartments across two 15-floor towers, as well as below-ground parking and 11,500 square feet of boardwalk-adjacent retail space. They have said that without the tax exemptions — the IDA had already rejected an earlier request for a $129 million break — the project cannot be built.

D’Amato, a lobbyist who said he is not representing anyone regarding the Superblock debate, suggested that union leaders who support the project have had too much influence on IDA board members.

“It’s time to investigate and look into what the IDA is about to do: enrich a rich developer at the expense of taxpayers,” D’Amato told lawmakers.

Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) did not address D’Amato’s request at the meeting, but said in a later statement that the IDA board, while appointed by the county executive and confirmed by the legislature, is “independent of both.”

She added that she hopes “it takes into consideration the many voices in opposition to such a massive package.”

IDA chairman Joseph Kearney declined to respond to D’Amato, saying the IDA “would continue its process” of deliberation on iStar’s application. The board commissioned a report saying the Superblock could generate $17.9 million more in property taxes with the exemptions than under normal tax rates if the land remained vacant.

D’Amato called that report “incompetent” for assuming nearly flat annual tax rates.

County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican who appoints the IDA board, has said he opposes the tax breaks.

Later Monday, the legislature unanimously approved the bill banning county contractors involved in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that pressures Israel to end what organizers call discriminatory government policies toward Palestinians.

Legis. Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence), who spearheaded the bill, said BDS is “layered on a rock solid foundation of anti-Israeli, and unfortunately, anti-Semitic sentiment.”

The bill requires vendors competing for contracts to affirm on disclosure forms that they are not involved with BDS boycotts or divestiture. Nassau could sue any company that lies on the forms, Kopel said.

Officials said they were unaware of any current county vendor that supports the BDS movement.

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