Scattered Clouds 35° Good Evening
Scattered Clouds 35° Good Evening

Tax breaks make sense for Hempstead Village megaproject

A rendering shows a proposed Hempstead Village redevelopment

A rendering shows a proposed Hempstead Village redevelopment -- including apartment buildings, stores and an entertainment complex -- that would cost $2.5 billion. Photo Credit: Renaissance Downtowns

The Village of Hempstead has been waiting for more than a decade.

It’s now one vote and about 30 days from putting a shovel in the ground on the first phase of a $2.5 billion plan to revitalize the community. All the Hempstead Industrial Development Agency has to do is say yes.

The IDA vote is the last roadblock to breaking ground on a plan that, if all goes well, could create thousands of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue, and enormous additional economic activity in an area that desperately needs it. Then there’s the promise of additional community benefits and the hope of a safer, more vibrant community.

Wednesday morning, the IDA is due to vote on whether to give the first phase of the revitalization effort $20 million in tax breaks over the next 20 years. Such breaks, known as payments in lieu of taxes, too often are sought by businesses that don’t need them or by luxury housing proposals like the “superblock” project in Long Beach.

This is different.

If there were no breaks, property taxes on the first phase would amount to about $6,000 a year per unit — or about $2 million a year, according to the developers. Instead, if approved, the payments will start at $672,000 in year one and increase every year until the breaks phase out.

Right now, the land isn’t on the tax rolls. The total revenue that comes in from the property? Zero.

The incentives would help the developers satisfy lenders’ concerns over whether the project will be financially viable. That would make the difference between whether the village is revitalized or not. It’s a relatively small price to pay for what could be a transformative moment.

Hempstead Village was once Nassau County’s crown jewel,a hub of economic activity. Times changed, and as businesses moved and residents departed, the village saw its tax base depleted, crime rise and opportunities vanish. Since then, Hempstead has seen its share of failed redevelopment efforts. But when Renaissance Downtowns entered the picture five years ago, there was the hope that something big could happen.

Since then, there has been a seemingly endless march of meetings and a constant flow of objections. Some had a degree of validity, such as the worry that Renaissance, a company with many grand designs but little actual building experience, wasn’t going to build what it said it would. But even when Renaissance’s Don Monti brought in the experienced Scott Rechler of RXR Realty as his partner, the drumbeat of doubt continued — and it remains, even now. Hempstead Village Trustee Don Ryan, a Republican, and Hempstead Town Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, a Democrat, have stood in the project’s way, their objections often stemming from personal or political relationships. Neither seems to notice or care that the village languishes even as they grandstand. Neither shows a willingness to lead.

It’s time for the naysayers to get out of the way — and let Monti and Rechler try to change Hempstead Village’s future. That should start Wednesday — with a yes. — The editorial board