There should be workers in hard hats with shovels and construction machinery, breaking ground and starting to build. Instead, there’s just finger-pointing, word-parsing and a site ready for, well, nothing.
And so, the $2.5 billion effort to revitalize the Village of Hempstead is again stuck in the political muck. The 32-acre plan includes apartments, shops, restaurants, a hotel, movie theater and parking. Now, it’s up to the Town of Hempstead Industrial Development Agency to get it going again.
Wait just a moment, you might say, didn’t the town IDA already approve an agreement for the village revitalization?
Yes, in May, the IDA approved a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, that would last for 10 years, with the option to renew it for another 10, assuming some conditions were met. Developers Don Monti and Scott Rechler, along with the IDA members who represent the village, interpreted it as an automatic renewal if they followed the rules, got the building built, and filled it to 95 percent occupancy.
But the written version of the deal isn’t so clear. It talks only of a 10-year PILOT, later mentioning a possible 10-year extension that would require new approvals and new terms. That, Rechler and Monti say, is not the same thing, and won’t be enough to get lenders to agree to finance the project. Under those terms, it might not move forward.
Here, politics is overtaking the needs of the village and its residents. Hempstead Village Mayor Wayne Hall has staked his political future on the revitalization, and there are those who’d like to see him fail.
Town IDA representatives, village officials and the developers are too far down the road to abandon this journey. If they can’t negotiate the terms, the IDA should soon schedule a new vote on a clear and specific agreement. The village’s future is at stake. — The editorial board