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A scene of construction going on behind the fences along Route 25A in Mount Sinai. Photo by Kyle Barr

By David Luces

A long mesh fence has gone up around the corner of Echo Avenue and Route 25A in Mount Sinai. Passing cars can see heavy construction vehicles already breaking the ground on what will be an assisted living community and senior rental space.

As development and construction are underway for two projects, a 120-unit Bristal assisted living community and a 225-unit senior rental complex for individuals 55 and over on a 24-acre parcel of land in Mount Sinai, the Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency earlier last month offered a 13-year payment in lieu of taxes agreement to the developer.

“We’ve had a series of correspondence [with the town] going back two or three years about the need for this particular parcel [of land] to be generating tax income for the community.”

— Ann Becker

Lisa Mulligan, the town’s director of economic development and CEO of the town’s IDA, said the projects would be a major boon to the area, adding these two projects are a $138 million investment for the township, and construction would facilitate around 800 construction jobs, according to town officials. 

IDA documents show once the project is completed, the residential facility will provide four full time jobs with an average salary of $56,000. The assisted living facilty is listed as providing 50 full time and 20 part time jobs with an average salary $36,000 by year two of the facility.

Mulligan said that before construction began in January the developer paid around $46,000 in property taxes on the vacant land. 

The 13-year PILOT would see the developer continue to pay $46,000 in property taxes for the first three years while the two projects are under construction. Then in the fourth year the tax payments would increase to around $190,000 and would continue to rise to about $2.2 million at the end of the PILOT. From there, the developer would pay the full assessed value of the properties, which is expected to be more than the PILOT payments.  

“We are really excited for the projects and to be able facilitate 800 jobs,” Mulligan said.   

Mount Sinai Civic Association has largely been supportive of the senior housing construction plans, though civic leaders are not fond of the news that the developer has received a PILOT from the Brookhaven IDA. 

The civic association hosted a meeting March 4 to discuss the PILOT agreement.  

“The Mount Sinai Civic Association has been consulted by The Engel Burman Group and approves of their plan to construct the senior housing project currently underway on Route 25A in Mount Sinai,” the civic said in a statement provided to TBR News Media.  

According to the civic association, the development is a part of a 1999 legal stipulation which resulted from a lawsuit filed against the town by them on the 24-acre parcel of land, and the land has always been designated for that purpose of creating these senior facilities. However, civic members were disappointed in the loss of tax revenue due to the PILOT.

“Our community has gone through many proposals for this project, and is pleased that the development is finally underway,” the civic said in its statement. “However we were very disappointed to see that a PILOT was approved by the Brookhaven IDA as this parcel was always intended to provide much-needed tax relief for the Mount Sinai community.”  

At the March 4 meeting, civic president Ann Becker reiterated that stance. 

“We’ve had a series of correspondence [with the town] going back two or three years about the need for this particular parcel [of land] to be generating tax income for the community,” she said. “We’ve been concerned about that for a number of years.”

Becker said while they are supportive about the facilities coming to the area and understand there will be some tax benefits for Mount Sinai, they are just unsure if this was the best deal that could have been obtained. 

“We are really excited for the projects and to be able facilitate 800 jobs.”

— Lisa Mulligan

The developers, The Engel Burman Group of Garden City, are no strangers to the Long Island area with 13 other assisted-living locations on the Island, including facilities in Lake Grove and Holtsville. 

Census data shows the senior population will outstrip the younger generations. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2035 there will be 78 million people 65 years and older compared to 76.7 million under the age of 18. 

The Mount Sinai senior rental complex will include a 9,000 square foot clubhouse with a movie theater, card room, outdoor pool, living room and gym. 

Units in the complex, will range from studio up to two bedrooms. A spokesperson from Engel Burman said they have not determined the prices of rent yet.

Information added March 11 denoting number of jobs the two different projects should have by completion.

Satellite image of the 795-acre Brookhaven Calabro Airport. Image from Google Maps

Most couples agree there’s nothing worse than receiving a breakup message on Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, that’s the message New York City received Feb. 14 when Amazon said it would no longer build its next headquarters in Queens.

Reactions from Long Island’s elected officials was swift. U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said the blame rests on New York’s unfriendliness to business.

“New York’s 1st Congressional District would be happy to be Amazon’s Valentine today and take these 25,000 great-paying jobs,” Zeldin said in a statement. “New York wouldn’t even need all the subsides if we didn’t have one of the worst business climates in the United States. We must level the playing field, reduce taxes and burdensome regulations, stop picking winners.” 

“New York wouldn’t even need all the subsides if we didn’t have one of the worst business climates in the United States.”

— Lee Zeldin

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who were both heavily involved in the Amazon deal, also made public comments lamenting the loss. Meanwhile, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) reaffirmed the town would welcome the retail giant with open arms. 

Now that Amazon is no longer courting New York City, Romaine offered to sign over the 795 acres of Brookhaven Calabro Airport in Shirley if the corporation chooses Brookhaven as a site of their future headquarters. 

“We would close and give them the airport,” he said. “That’s a transfer of property. We’re interested in economic development.”

The town had offered the airport to Amazon before they had originally settled on Queens. The supervisor said the same tax deal proposed by Cuomo is still on the table should the company want to come to the East End of Long Island. The state offered a total of $1.2 billion in refundable tax credits to Amazon, in addition to providing a $505 million capital grant to aid in building its new headquarters. With New York City also pitching in, the total aid package would have been at least $2.8 billion. Romaine said the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency could make up the same amount of aid should Amazon rethink its plans and come back to Long Island.

A representative from the Brookhaven IDA did not respond to requests for comment.

The town supervisor was adamant the airport location was perfect for Amazon’s needs, boasting of its proximity to Sunrise Highway, the Long Island Expressway and William Floyd Parkway. The site is also a few miles away from Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Mastic-Shirley train station. He said the proposed location’s close proximity to the Hamptons, Shoreham and Wading River would be an extra incentive for those looking to make day trips.

“They’re looking for a campus-life situation, and this would provide that,” Romaine said. “If they wanted to they could keep one of the runways for light aircraft. That is totally negotiable.” 

“If they wanted to they could keep one of the runways for light aircraft. That is totally negotiable.”

— Ed Romaine

Despite the pushback the Queens Amazon headquarters received from residents and city politicians, Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said Brookhaven residents are much more open to the idea of a company like Amazon coming in.

“We’re looking for corporate businesses that would create good-paying jobs,” she said. 

Romaine said he knows it’s a long shot, especially with Amazon saying in a Feb. 14 blog post it would not be conducting its new headquarters search again. Instead, the corporation would be looking toward northern Virginia and Nashville, Tennessee, for its new headquarters location.  

“I think it’s worth a shot,” the supervisor said. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

The Shoreham power plant on North Country Road provides peak power to the community and payments in lieu of taxes to the Shoreham-Wading River school district. Photo from Jason White

A Brookhaven organization recently saved energy in the most literal sense, and a reliable revenue stream too.

The Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency (IDA) announced Nov. 27 it prevented the shutdown of an electric-generating plant in Shoreham, which provides peak power to the community and is expected to contribute $852,000 in property taxes or payments in lieu of taxes, commonly known as PILOTs, to the Shoreham-Wading River school district this year.

Brookhaven’s business arm has entered into a new, 20-year PILOT agreement with owners of the 90 megawatt, jet-fueled facility located on 10 acres of land on North Country Road, leased by the Long Island Power Authority. The facility’s previous PILOT and power purchase agreement between LIPA and Brookhaven expired this past August after 15 years.

In the proposal for the PILOT, which became the adopted policy when it was approved by the IDA in January 2017, projected gradual benefits range from $1.2 million in its first year to $1.7 million in its 20th.

The partnership began in September 2016 when members of J-Power USA — owners of the facility since 2010 — realized the expired pact would bring about a 33 percent reduction in revenue and a 50 percent reduction in economic benefits. The members were also told by LIPA representatives that the nonprofit would not be involved in negotiating a new PILOT.

“We wanted to see if Brookhaven would be able to offer a new PILOT that would  allow us to remain financially viable and our agreement has removed that big uncertainty,” said Jason White, director of asset management at the J-Power Shoreham branch. “Our facility uses General Electric combustion
turbines and while it doesn’t operate a lot, it’s important to the electric grid for stability purposes. It’s maintained so that it can respond very quickly if it’s called upon.”

White said although there had to be consideration to disassemble the power plant and move off Long Island in the case an agreement couldn’t be reached, it wouldn’t be a simple process, and the facility’s six
employees live close by.

“Our preference all along was to continue to operate the plant site and to continue to be a contributor to the local community,” White said.

By securing the power plant’s place in Shoreham, revenue is boosted for the school district, which relies heavily on it as a source of both energy and property tax revenue.

“I am pleased that we have been able to close on this new agreement with J-Power,” said Frederick Braun, chairman of the IDA. “Had we been unable to keep this plant from moving off Long Island with this new agreement, the Shoreham School District and other taxing jurisdictions would receive no payments at all, resulting in an even larger loss to those taxing jurisdictions.

The school district, which included the finalization of $852,000 in PILOT revenue in its Revised and Lowered Expenditure Budget & Tax Levy in October, approved the agreement in a resolution during a board meeting last Jan. 10.

“Be it resolved that the Board of Education of the Shoreham-Wading River Central School District supports the proposed financial assistance contemplated by the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency in connection with the J-Power Peaker Plant,” the letter read.

Lisa Mulligan, the IDA’s chief executive officer, said she had been in contact with the district’s board of education since meetings began with J-Power “as they were the most impacted by this.”

“We didn’t want to pursue something if they were not interested in it,” Mulligan said. “But the board wrote to us and told us they were … I think it’s important to bring money into the school district and also provide this power to residents when it’s needed.”

The Overbay apartments are planned for the former Islander Boat Center on West Broadway, above. File photo

The developer of a controversial apartment complex planned for Port Jefferson’s West Broadway may get financial assistance to help build it.

The Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency announced last week that it had accepted an application for consideration from Hauppauge-based Overbay LLC, which has approval from the Port Jefferson Village Planning Board to construct two 35-foot buildings containing 52 rental apartments.

Overbay is owned by North Shore developer Jim Tsunis.

Some residents have spoken against the project, slated for the corner of Brook Road at the former Islander Boat Center property, with concerns about increased traffic and density. Part of their resistance is linked to the fact that another apartment complex called the Residences at Port Jefferson — a 112-unit building — is due to go up next door at the corner of West Broadway and Barnum Avenue, in the place of the former Heritage Inn. TRITEC Real Estate Company in East Setauket is leading that development.

“We don’t want to be urbanized,” resident Phil Griffith said at a public hearing earlier this year. “It is just too much.”

In both projects, neither of which required variances for approval, parking will be contained underneath the apartments and the housing will replace longtime community eyesores at village’s western entry point.

According to the IDA, which aims to boost the economy within Brookhaven Town by assisting businesses in locating or expanding in the area, it will consider Overbay’s application for financial assistance over the coming few months and will hold a public hearing on the matter.

“We’re pleased to consider this application for this project, which will grow the much-needed supply of rental housing near to Stony Brook University and Port Jefferson’s Mather and St. Charles hospitals,” IDA Chairman Fred Braun said in a press release.

The three-story apartment buildings are expected to create two permanent jobs and 150 construction jobs over a two-year period, the IDA said. Rents could range from $1,800 to $2,200.

There is no commercial component to the Overbay project, though there had been commercial space included in previous proposals for the site.

The IDA has already assisted another apartment project in the area this year, the Rail Realty complex along Texaco Avenue in upper Port. That project, dubbed the Hills at Port Jefferson, will include two three-story buildings for a total of 74 rentals — a mixture of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments — and underground parking.

Officials broke ground Monday morning on a housing complex many hope will spur redevelopment in uptown Port Jefferson.

After four years of plans and approvals, developer Rail Realty LLC can get started on demolishing homes and buildings along Texaco Avenue to make way for 74 rental apartments, a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom. The Hills at Port Jefferson apartments will be constructed as two three-story buildings on several parcels along that street: One building will take the place of two vacant houses and the former Port Jeff Auto Spa car wash on the north half of Texaco, close to Sheep Pasture Road; while the other will be built in what is now a grassy field at the intersection with Linden Place. Resident parking will be underground, with a final parcel on the south side of Texaco and Linden, currently holding Stony Brook Electric Inc., to be used for additional parking.

Ryan Gitto arrives at a groundbreaking ceremony in upper Port Jefferson prepared to work. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Ryan Gitto arrives at a groundbreaking ceremony in upper Port Jefferson prepared to work. Photo by Elana Glowatz

“This is the beginning of a renaissance and a jumpstart to upper Port Jefferson,” Rail Realty principal Tony Gitto said at the groundbreaking ceremony, after digging into the earth at the grassy field.

The shovel work was followed up on the car wash property next door, where Mayor Margot Garant climbed into an excavator and took the first crack at taking apart the building there. Concrete crunched as she closed the vehicle’s claws over a corner of roof and ripped it away from the rest of the building.

“I can get used to this,” she shouted from the operator seat.

Garant said that the apartment project will be “so important” to upper Port revitalization efforts.

The village has been working to enhance that troubled area around Main Street between North Country Road/Sheep Pasture Road and the Long Island Rail Road tracks. An entire section of the village’s draft comprehensive plan is devoted to upper Port, with recommendations geared toward improving quality of life, making it more pedestrian-friendly and attracting developers and visitors.

Rail Realty got final village approval on its project last year. Under the conditions of that approval, the developer will make improvements to a pocket park near the apartments and improve traffic flow in the area by redesigning the intersection of Main Street and Sheep Pasture Road.

Tony Gitto breaks ground at the site of his upcoming apartment complex. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Tony Gitto breaks ground at the site of his upcoming apartment complex. Photo by Elana Glowatz

The housing complex will be constructed in phases, with the first phase being the northern apartment building, the second being the other building, and the third being the parking area across Linden Place.

The Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency gave financial assistance to Rail Realty on the project, including sales tax exemptions on construction items, a mortgage tax exemption and a 10-year property tax abatement through which the owner will pay taxes on roughly the current value of the site, as opposed to the increased value of the property once work is complete.

The IDA aims to boost the economy within Brookhaven Town by assisting businesses in locating or expanding in the area.

IDA Chairman Fred Braun said Monday, “Cleaning up a semi-blighted area is the first step,” and Long Island needs rentals both in the area of Stony Brook University and elsewhere.