iStar Update

Several Long Beach residents did Long Beach proud this week. A concerted effort by a group of your neighbors stopped the BOE from sending a letter in support of iStar to the IDA. And today a small group of them were present at the IDA hearing outnumbered by hundreds of union supporters of granting the tax break. They stood their ground and received the great news as the IDA denied the tax request.

Long Beach residents who deserve to be condemned in connection with iStar:
Anthony iStaramo – selling out his neighbors for union support in a future election
Darlene Tangney – attempting to sneak through BOE support of the tax relief
Stu Mininsky and Perry Bodnar — prepared to go along with Tangney until stopped by residents who jumped into action and got an assist from Dr. Ryan
Skudins — They have supported iStar since the first variance hearing

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Anthony Eramo is Running for Assembly

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We have nothing to add to this at this time.

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Stay on Top of the IDA regarding iStar

It is not too late to tell the Nassau IDA that you do not support the iStar tax break.  Of the $109 million tax break, $97 million would be Long Beach School taxes and City of Long Beach taxes.  Roy Lester, Board of Ed President, believes the $109 million will be closer to $140 million because iStar’s numbers do not reflect ordinary increases.  Either way, it’s a lot of money and whatever iStar does not pay in its share of taxes, YOU pay.  (NB:  Lido residents affected by school tax, too.)

If you have not closely followed the issues, we direct you to https://thelongbeachsun.com/2016/02/17/february-24-i-starida-hearing-i-star-wants-you-to-pay-its-taxes/, although you can find other information in various places on the internet and from the local civic associations.  The West End Neighbors Civic Association has done a particularly good workup on the issues.

This is not a republican or democrat or a union or non-union issue.  This is about iStar paying its FAIR SHARE OF TAXES.   Its own variance application said it would pay these taxes!  It said as long as it could build higher and denser, it was good to go!

This is larger than the iStar Superblock.  Do you think the Foundation Block (immediately west of the Superblock) will pay taxes when it develops if iStar doesn’t?  What about the lot over by Laurelton?

So, if you were not at the big hearing earlier this week that was jam-packed with union — 98% from outside LB, you  should know there appeared to be ONLY ONE LB resident (actually, she said she was from EAB) that was not union/trade rep or real estate broker or EW Howell-related (project construction company) that spoke in favor of the tax break.  EVERY OTHER LB resident that spoke against it.  Of course, loads of union — mostly from outside of LB, spoke in favor.  (Oh, yeah, Anthony Eramo also spoke in favor, but that’s a sad topic for another day….)

But you still have the opportunity to let the IDA know you oppose the tax request.

Send an email to Executive Director: Joseph Kearney — jkearney@nassauida.org

or write a letter and mail to:

Nassau County Industrial Development Agency

Theodore Roosevelt Executive & Legislative Building

1550 Franklin Ave., Suite 235

Mineola, NY 11501

or call:

Phone: 516-571-1945

Fax: 516-571-1076

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February 24 I-Star/IDA Hearing — I-Star Wants You to Pay its Taxes!

I-Star wants Long Beach taxpayers to pay $109 million of its taxes.  Under I-Star’s most recent proposal to the Nassau County IDA, it would develop the Superblock property but basically pay no new taxes over the amount being paid now for the undeveloped property for nearly 18 years.  Of this $109 million tax break, about $97 million is taxes that would have been paid to the City of Long Beach and in Long Beach school taxes.

A tax levy for each of City and school taxes is set every year and every residential and commercial taxpayer pays its share of the levy.  If I-Star gets a tax break, what it doesn’t pay is paid by every other Long Beach taxpayer.  For example, if the City and school taxes for Long Beach for one year are $100 million and I-Star is supposed to pay $5 million, but gets tax relief so it only has to pay $500,000, who is going to pay the $4.5 million I-Star isn’t paying?  You. That’s who.

I-Star’s response to this irrefutable fact is that if it doesn’t build, there are no new taxes anyway, so Long Beach is “losing” nothing if it gets a tax break.  Well, that’s like any resident saying I won’t build an addition to my house or add an in-ground pool unless I’m not taxed on it, and if I don’t do those things there’s no new taxes, so don’t increase my taxes because you’re “losing” nothing.  Um, OK, when it works that way for everyone, let us know.  I-Star then threatens that it won’t do the project if it doesn’t get the tax break.  I-Star is a public company that has a duty to its shareholders to maximize value.  It is highly unlikely to sit on a piece of property for years, tying up cash and paying taxes in a vendetta against Long Beach.  Shareholders don’t care about vendettas.  It will modify its request dramatically or just build without a break or sell the property and move on.  And all the litigation concerning the Superblock is over.  Done.  There will be no cloud overhanging another owner’s development of the property.  Don’t believe the hogwash on that front.

There are lots of reasons that I-Star, in our opinion, should not have gotten its variance approved, but this tax relief request goes to the heart of I-Star’s variance request from another perspective.  Not only did I-Star beat its chest about needing no financing and being ready to put shovels in the ground — which undoubtedly was an important consideration for the City Council and Zoning Board — BUT I-Star highlighted the NEW TAXES it would be paying to the City and the school district.

It’s variance application contained consultant reports from Cameron Engineering & Associates LLP and 4ward Planning Inc. (such reports have also been submitted as part of the package to the IDA).  Each of those reports notes that the project will result in real property taxes of approximately $5 million per year.

The Cameron Engineering Environmental Assessment, January 2014, at Page 1-6, discussing the impacts from the project on police, fire, ambulance and schools, states:

“For the proposed project, all potentially adverse impacts would be adequately mitigated and offset by the projected increase in revenues for the City of Long Beach and the School District.”

Then at Page 3-15, Cameron refers to the detailed economic and fiscal analysis of the project  and states:

“[T]he proposed project is expected to produce over $4.8 million in an annual net new revenue for the City of Long Beach and Long Beach School District.”

4ward Planning in its report (Appendix B to variance application)  at Page 4 states as follows:

“The proposed development … is expected to produce over $4.8 million in an annual net new revenue for the City of Long Beach and Long Beach School District.”

The variance application made NO MENTION about seeking a tax break.  To the contrary, it touted the new taxes the project would generate.  Further, I-Star’s multiple presentations highlighted that it was so financially strong that it needed no financing and was ready to put shovels in the ground.

Given the harsh resident backlash to its tax relief grab, I-Star has a new ploy up its sleeve — agreeing to use union labor, so that it can get union support, including from Long Beach’s union residents.  The use of union labor is on a project of limited duration.  It is not a manufacturing plant or large service facility that will provide union jobs for the next 20-30-40 years.  The project is expected to take 3 years.  No doubt it will provide good jobs for those 3 years, but how in the world would that justify Long Beach taxpayers paying $100 million for it?

In a nutshell, the IDA should deny the tax break because:

1. I-Star should pay its fair share of taxes; just like everyone else.

2. I-Star’s variance application – the lynchpin to its project  — not only made NO mention of the “required” tax break, but, to the contrary, referred to the tax benefits of the project at full tax level; the IDA should see through this.

3. The project will add tremendous infrastructure pressure — fire, police, administrative, sewer, water, parking — that is not being paid for.

4. The City needs the tax revenue desperately — the current City bond debt is higher by multiples than ever and now includes a huge amount for the “Haberman suit”.

5. The I-Star project simply does not satisfy the reasons for a typical IDA tax break— which involve recovery and rehab of brown fields/blighted areas, encouraging manufacturing, long term employment development, etc.

6. Avalon,  Allegria and Aqua were built on the Long Beach oceanfront with no IDA tax breaks.

In sum, in our opinion the I-Star tax request is a terrible deal for Long Beach.  If you don’t want to be paying I-Star’s taxes, let the IDA know by emailing them care of the address below and showing up to the IDA public session next week, February 24 @ 6:30PM at Long Beach City Hall.  If you don’t spend some time now, you will be spending a long time paying I-Star’s taxes.

IDA Members:

Timothy Williams, John Coumatos, Gary Weiss, Christopher Fusco, Michael Rodin

c/o Joseph J. Kearney, Executive Director, jkearney@nassauida.org

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2015 City Council Election Results

We are disappointed in the election results. We believe Long Beach would have been better served by having at least one other new face on the City Council in addition to Anissa Moore. The Long Beach Herald, Project 11561 (Facebook) and Long Beach Matters To You (Facebook) were all of the same opinion.   More partisan folks like The Long Beach Professional Firefighters and Take Back Long Beach (both on Facebook) also sought new faces and did not break it down on party line.   Unless we misread something, Anissa Moore was supported or approved by all.  That says a lot.

Let’s look at the numbers.  The Democratic incumbents (Eramo/Torres) had a far larger decrease in their votes than the Republican challengers (in relation to the prior Republican challengers) compared to the 2013 election.

Eramo got 26% less votes this time, compared to 2013.  Torres was not up for election in 2013, but compared to the vote average of the 2013 Democrat slate, Torres did 32% worse.

The Republican challengers on average, in comparison to the average of the 2013 Republican challengers, got 12% less votes.

We also note that in the 2013 election, the new face –Anthony Eramo – got fewer votes than incumbents Mandel and Goggin.  Here, the newcomer — Anissa Moore – –received more votes than the incumbents.

There is something telling here.  Our interpretation is that residents are not happy with the incumbents and the incumbents benefited tremendously from their association with Anissa Moore. She boosted them.  There is, of course, fantastic irony in that.

Regardless, this is the Council we’ve got until the next election. While Anissa Moore will not be installed into office until January, that is not far away and we hope and trust that the incumbent administration will include her immediately.

Turning to our optimistic side, Ms. Moore’s addition is positive.  And this comes shortly after Mr. Mandel and Ms. Goggin’s request (w/ Moore) that Mr. Zapson step down.  While Mr. Torres flip-flopped and there was a very late reaction by Mr. Eramo, it seems that at least 3 of them have their heads pointed in the right direction.  Hopefully, Mr. Eramo and Mr. Torres will take stock of this election, learn something from it and take their “victories” with humility rather than arrogance. All of this will herald a better future for Long Beach.

Speaking of the future, we note the following:

Anissa Moore extensively criticised the administration insofar as listening to the residents, transparency and improper influence. We trust that Ms. Moore will both live up to her views and work with her Council colleagues to remedy these sure deficiencies.

Transparency. Put all material documents on the City website. Stop the FOIL nonsense.

Answer Resident Questions.  Sometimes reflection is needed; sometimes residents ask questions that have nothing to do with the matter at hand. We get it. We’ve been to the meetings. But there’s been an alarming trend of avoiding answering any question the councilmembers don’t like. That’s bad form. Put an end to that practice.

Important Matters Require Notice. iStar was slipped through. Items as important to the future of LB as development of the Superblock cannot be rushed through. Decisions like that will be with LB long after the Council is gone. Good form requires substantial notice and hearings. Then decisions can be made.

Ethics Law.  Put in place a revised ethics law.  Given all the unseemly shenanigans laid out in the press about, among others, Messrs. Skelos and Silver, the applicable state law must be really weak.  Long Beach should not set a lower bar.

Congratulations to the winners.  Now do what’s best for Long Beach.  You have a clean slate and today is the first day of the rest of your lives.

Finally, thank you to the unelected candidates for taking on an uphill battle from day one.

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2015 City Council Election — Checks and Balances

We’ve attended each candidate forum, beginning with the primary forum. We’ve been bombarded by campaign literature for months. We’ve watched Torres and Eramo at City Council meetings, and watched them and the other candidates at various public events, and read their comments captured in newspapers. We’ve taken stock of the accomplishments of and our disappointments in the current administration. Where do we end up? Change is needed. Checks and balances are needed.

Let’s get this out of the way. Without question, the democratic administration hit the ball out of the park in dealing with Sandy. Folks can quibble on the margins, but that’s the case. We applaud the Council members* for their efforts during that time, but the credit in large measure goes to the City Manager, his staff and department heads and their ability to communicate with and get results from the local, state and federal governments and various government agencies.  We also applaud the administration for their efforts on the budget crisis when they took office in 2012. (*Mr. Eramo joined the administration in January 1, 2014, after these events.)

We have also been extremely disappointed in this administration for reasons set out previously on this site, but the highlights: iStar – from settlement to variance to tax breaks, this has been a shameful (and continuing) episode reeking of crony capitalism; transparency – in 2012, a key campaign issue for the Democrat slate was the lack of transparency by the republicans; the current administration has mastered the same game; Haberman lawsuit settlement fiasco – still unclear, except huge judgment against City; cronyism/favoritism/boss politics – trying to slip through lifetime benefits for certain people, bending over for the Police union, overtime games, and the like.

We mention the foregoing to ground our views on the election. We believe the City will be best served and protected by adding new voices. Nonetheless, here are some specific reactions on the candidates:

Eramo and Torres – they are part of the administration, and change is needed, so they don’t have our vote. Further, we believe they have continually obfuscated about the City’s support of the iStar tax break — itself damning in our eyes. We’ve read the iStar documents. If they didn’t, shame on them. If they did, shame on them.

Moore – although running on the Democrat slate, has pulled no punches in her criticism of the current administration. She seems highly focused on the hospital, transparency, and independence. She has our vote.

Lomonte, Higgins, Quinn – we think there should be checks and balances and these folks seem genuinely interested in improving the City, are willing to put forward a revised ethics law for Long Beach. They have our support. However, Moore does too, so Quinn is the odd (wo)man out here. We like the fact that she’s a lawyer, and is not with a law firm that may do business with the City directly or indirectly, that she grew up in Long Beach and is raising her family here; however, she did not get a lot of airtime at the various forums, and just did not come across as strong as her running mates. Maybe next time.

A new Council with a couple of veterans (Mandel, Goggin), a democrat (Moore), and, hopefully, “loyal opposition” in Lomonte and Higgins, would, presumably, keep the same City management, yet be much less tethered to “boss” politics. The dynamic tension created by coming from different camps, hopefully, would keep everyone on their toes.  The work left to do with respect to Sandy and generally improving LB would be able to continue.  Eramo and Torres are not critical to that going forward.

This election is important and presents a real opportunity to fine tune the City Council. Get out and vote next Tuesday!

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Late to the Party – Eramo Letter to Long Beach Herald About Zapson

Two weeks after his Council colleagues asked for Mike Zapson to step down as Long Beach leader, Mr. Eramo has published a letter in this past week’s Herald asking for Zapson to step down.  You can find it in the paper copy of the Herald.  Question to Mr. Torres, who has flipped and flopped on this:  Where do you stand?

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