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Taubman: Oyster Bay mall would create jobs

The abandoned Cerro Wire site in the Town

The abandoned Cerro Wire site in the Town of Oyster Bay Photo Credit: NEWSDAY/MICHAEL E. ACH

Let's talk about jobs -- 5,000 of them. For the past 15 years, my company, Taubman Centers, has been trying to build the first new mall in 40 years in Nassau County, on a vacant 39-acre lot in Syosset. It's bordered by the Long Island Expressway, two storage facilities for highway equipment, a garbage dump and the Long Island Rail Road.

Today, the lot sits fallow in the midst of this endless recession. The land produces nothing and helps no one. A lot more can and should be done with that space.

We own the land. At our expense, we took down the Cerro Wire Factory and completed the environmental remediation required to redevelop this former industrial site. Major retailers like Barneys New York, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus signed on as the mall's anchor tenants. These are the kinds of retailers that attract new customers to the region, bringing in shoppers to spend their money on Long Island.

We are ready to make this happen without taking a nickel of taxpayers' money. We don't have to go to the markets to get construction financing.

Once ground is broken, The Mall at Oyster Bay will create 3,500 good-paying construction jobs, and then 2,000 full-time jobs to run the facility after it's completed. Based on an analysis by an independent consulting company, it will produce at least $40 million every year in new tax revenue for the state, the county and the Syosset school district. To our knowledge, this is one of the only projects in the entire state that is shovel ready, and certainly the only one not relying on any taxpayer subsidies. We can begin work right now to create these jobs, spending our own money at a time when Nassau County desperately needs new economic growth.

Yet despite the need for jobs and revenue, we've been blocked time after time, year after year, because of local politics and the loud voices of a few activists. The permits we need to start creating jobs have been withheld for well over a decade by the Town of Oyster Bay.

When times are good, projects can get stuck in the mire of a few not-in-my-backyard groups, and people go about their lives not thinking twice. But this area can no longer afford to let politics and the parochial issues of a few block a project that would benefit so many. Of the groups that oppose the project, the IRS has said that more than half are fictitious entities and revoked their tax-exempt status. In other words, there is little real-world opposition to this project, especially when compared to its broad support, including among labor organizations.

The unemployment rate of Long Island construction trades is over 30 percent. These workers can't put food on the table for their families. Nassau County is searching frantically for new sources of revenue that could prevent substantial layoffs and cuts in services. It's time to change this paradigm and begin supporting real projects, with real developers who can back up their claims with real money.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo understands the need for growth. That's why he appointed regional economic development councils across the state to identify ways to create jobs. The Long Island Regional Economic Development Council is working to identify projects that can begin generating high-paying jobs right away. And projects such as ours, which offer state-of-the-art shopping and entertainment, help lure companies to locate in Nassau County, because they make the region more attractive to their employees.

We hope that as the Regional Economic Development Council prepares its final list of recommendations, our project will be on it. That would not only generate strong momentum locally for the project to finally move forward, it would also help send a message to job creators across the country that Cuomo is serious about changing New York, and that the state wants you to come here, create jobs and will do everything in its power to help employers create employment opportunities.

Every governor and every elected official say they want to create jobs. Some prove by their actions that they really mean it, some don't. Approving this project will make it clear that when leaders in New York say that creating jobs is a priority, they mean it.

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