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Cooked-up: LIPA plant purchase idea
Huntington Town Board member Eugene Cook is flailing about as he tries to find a way to blunt the impact of potentially reduced tax revenue from the Northport power plant, taxes that are paid by all Long Island Power Authority customers.
Cook’s effort to essentially impose a carbon tax didn’t pick up steam at a town board meeting last week, so he is pushing a new scheme: Seize the plant by eminent domain.
This idea doesn’t seem to have much juice, either.
Cook’s rationale is that a new assessment of approximately $194 million that LIPA assigned to the plant in a different tax certiorari case is so ridiculously cheap, the town should take over the plant and run it as a municipal utility. He says this would reduce taxes and electric rates, but he has provided no analysis to back up the claim. LIPA is reminding him that if something looks too good to be true, that’s because it is.
LIPA filed a lawsuit in 2010 seeking a 90 percent reduction in the town’s assessed value of $3.6 billion for the plant, bringing its fair market value down to about $360 million. That’s why Cook says that this most recent assessment of $194 million is a bargain.
According to a letter sent to the town on Monday morning by LIPA general counsel Jon R. Mostel, $194 million would not be the final cost; instead, a court would have to offer National Grid just compensation, which is likely to have a higher price tag.
His dismissive missive goes on to say that should LIPA win the certiorari case, the town would still be on the hook for refunding more than $570 million in taxes it paid since the 2010 challenge. And Mostel warned that the plant actually loses money as time passes after factoring in the cost of fuel and operations. It runs at only 18 percent of its capacity now because there is cheaper power to be bought in the New York market.
LIPA’s challenge to the valuation of its power plants is scheduled to go to trial in one big case on June 11, and while Nassau County (Barrett and Glenwood Landing) and the Town of Brookhaven (Port Jefferson) are deep into productive settlement talks, Huntington seems willing to roll the dice. That’s primarily because the Northport school district, which would not have to shoulder the $570 million refund, but faces less revenue in the future, is rejecting all offers.
LIPA will not settle with the town alone. So as the school district drives a bus off a cliff, town board members are strapped into their seats, with Cook screaming the loudest.
Hubba hubba at the Hub
There’s been a change of tune at the Nassau Hub that makes the possibility of new development ideas for the site far more likely.
It was only at the end of March when developer Ed Blumenfeld of Syosset’s Blumenfeld Development Group and Nassau Coliseum manager Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment issued a statement that hummed about a “shared vision” for the Hub.
But now, Brooklyn Sports is singing a different song.
“There never was an agreement with BDG . . .,” Brooklyn Sports said in a statement Friday. “We have received great interest from a number of other developers regarding the hub and we believe it is in everyone’s best interest that we hear these ideas as we look to get shovels in the ground quickly.”
And perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise, since Brooklyn Sports didn’t present at last week’s county legislature hearing.
Nonetheless, Brooklyn Sports and its parent, Onexim Sports & Entertainment, are critically important to anything that goes on at the Hub.
Onexim, owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, controls an 85 percent stake in Nassau Events Center — which in turn holds the Coliseum lease. And in that lease is a key passage that gives the county the right to develop the land immediately around Nassau Coliseum, but requires the county to “reasonably cooperate” with Nassau Events Center on any development. That clause makes one thing clear: Nassau County can’t develop the Hub without involvement from Nassau Events Center — and therefore, Onexim.
If Onexim wants other developers involved, the county is likely to head in that direction, too.
Blumenfeld, meanwhile, isn’t going anywhere. His take? If Onexim splits from him, “They would become co-conspirators in creating further delay at the Hub.”
Delay at the Hub? Maybe it’s the same song after all.
Randi F. Marshall
Get the facts straight
- Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman received a payout $53,000 more than he was entitled to when he left his job as Long Beach city manager, according to a Newsday review of his contract and city code. Aren’t comptrollers supposed to get their numbers right?
- Asked whether it’s OK to lie to the press, new President Donald Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said, “I don’t think the president has done that,” providing new context to Trump’s remark that eventually Giuliani will get the facts straight.
- Since 2014, there have been more than 30 accidents involving guns brought to school campuses by teachers or law enforcement officials, according to the AP. The only good thing about that number is that it is lower than the number of mass school shootings during that time.
- A member of embattled Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt’s staff is reportedly shopping negative stories about Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to take the heat off Pruitt. Good move. Maybe both will get fired.
- UN Ambassador Nikki Haley says she won’t defend President Donald Trump’s “communication style.” Well, that’s one Republican.
- Republicans are worried Democrats will bash them over attempts to give the Trump administration the authority to waive sanctions on U.S. allies like India that buy weapons from Russia. Now where would they get the idea that that’s a bash-able offense?
- The Republican Party will lose a lot more than its two-vote majority in the U.S. Senate if John McCain loses his battle with brain cancer.