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On Second Thought ...

I have a story in today's paper on a bill awaiting Gov. David Paterson's signature that would end Empire Zone benefits for housing construction. The bill's sponsor, Assemblyman Mark Schroeder, a South Buffalo Democrat, said his intent was much narrower, but it's tough to read the bill or the bill summary and come away seeing his interpretation.

Schroeder is already second-guessing the bill, saying he's  "looking at it more closely. I realize that my intent in the bill and what it actually does may be in conflict."

He was scheduled to meet Tuesday afternoon with City Hall officials, who oppose the bill. Brian Reilly, the city's newly anointed commissioner of economic development, said it would put a crimp into some 15 projects. (See list below).

I suspect Paterson will veto the bill, and perhaps he should. But the measure begs a larger question:

Should an economic development program aimed at helping the poor be used to provide tax breaks for upscale housing that benefits the rich?

Consider some of the projects slated for Empire Zone benefits, including hefty property tax abatements. There's the top three floors of the former Dulski Federal Building on Delaware, which will feature condoes fetching up to $1 million. Or the condos and townhouses in Erie Basin Marina selling for more than $500,000, whose buyers will save an estimated $100,000 in property taxes over 10 years.

The question, put another way: If you can afford spending a half-million or more for your digs, do you really need a tax break?

Here's the list of projects provided by Reilly that he said are counting on Empire Zone benefits. Those of you in the know will note that few of the project are in the inner city. Ditto for being "affordable housing."

504 Washington St., conversion/renovation; residential, 6 dwelling units

Courtyard Mall, Phase II+, 450-460 Main St.;upper floors, renovation/conversion; mixed-use

567 Exchange St., renovation/conversion-artists studios; cost TBD

Waterfront Place, 35 Ojibwa Circle, Waterfront Village; new construction townhouses & high-rise condo

Statler Building Renovation, 107 Delaware Ave.; mixed-use: hotel, office, housing

Sycamore Village; 24 units, new housing construction

200 Delaware Building (Dulski); Renovation; Mixed-use office, hotel and residential

937 Broadway (Mautner Paper Box), Conversion/Reconstruction, residential, 40 units

Greystone Apartments, 24 Johnson Park; conversion, residential; 33 units

Loft Conversion, 686 Main St. (Birzon Building); renovation, mixed-use

Genesee Gateway, 99-107 Genesee St., renovation, conversion, mixed-use

Creamery Building, 199 Scott St., renovation/conversion, residential

National Casket building, 430 Virginia, renovation/conversion; 10 apartments

Willert Park Village Housing, 15-new single-family residences; Kane, Mortimer, Walnut, Spring & Camp

960 Busti Ave., renovation/conversion to mixed-use housing & office (Ellicott Dev.)


Economic Development | State government
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