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When not to do IDA tax breaks

Former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato speaks out against the

Former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato speaks out against the tax breaks requested by the developers of Long Beach's Superblock project during a public meeting held by the Nassau County Industrial Development Association in Long Beach City Hall on the evening of June 3, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

When former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato got up in front of the Nassau County Legislature Monday to rage against a proposed $109 million tax break for a 522-apartment waterfront luxury development in Long Beach, he was speaking for a lot of locals who are infuriated by the proposed deal.

D’Amato, who said he has never spoken in favor of or against an Industrial Development Agency tax break, characterized this proposal for the “Superblock” development as a theft from taxpayers, because it should not be needed to make waterfront luxury housing in a hot community like Long Beach feasible. He also argued that the developer had not said it needed tax breaks when it sought and got height and density variances that allowed it to build 50 feet (almost 50 percent) higher than rules allow. D’Amato’s right. And those variances, which were opposed by many community members, added to the project’s profitability by adding five floors to two planned towers.

Last year the IDA, under heavy public pressure, refused a 30-year, $129 million tax break for the project. Today, it is set to consider a 20-year, $109 million break that still adds up to $10,000 per apartment in tax breaks per year.

D’Amato went in front of the Nassau legislature because it approves IDA board members the county executive selects. This project is by far the most contentious tax break to come before the IDA, because of its size, but the agency often gives out inappropriate and unnecessary deals to projects big and small. The Nassau County IDA should deny the Superblock tax breaks, and be more prudent about giving out deals in general. And if it doesn’t do that, the county executive and legislature need to pick board members who will. — The editorial board