So now Valley Stream is a tourist destination. And the Green Acres Mall is its crown jewel.
That's the Town of Hempstead Industrial Development Agency's justification for making an expansion and renovation of the mall worthy of large tax breaks. But the mall isn't a tourist destination, and it's a scam to say otherwise. Green Acres is a retail shopping center that happens to get a lot of business from Queens. The IDA has to serve up the pretense that shoppers from the city are tourists because Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo led a charge two years ago that outlawed hefty tax breaks to retail developments.
Businesses and local IDAs now try to find loopholes. In doing so, they've proven that local IDAs can't be trusted to grant tax exemptions without increased state oversight, a change Cuomo will seek this year.
Green Acres Mall plans an $84-million expansion where the Sunrise Multiplex Cinemas stands and to spend another $79 million on improvements to the current location. Macerich Co., the owner, is making these moves because they make good business sense. But in December, Macerich was granted a sales-tax exemption of $6 million, a mortgage-recording tax exemption and an agreement for a payment in lieu of taxes on the renovation. The company will also seek breaks for the expansion. But why should they be granted? It's not as if the company can move the mall to China. And giving tax breaks to some retailers gives them an unfair advantage over others.
The IDAs do this because they self-fund through application fees, and those fees will dry up if applicants don't get deals. Cuomo is right to demand state oversight, because no one is looking out for the taxpayers who have to pick up the slack when businesses avoid paying their share.