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Judge rejects Wyandanch schools' request to overturn developer tax break

Judge rejects Wyandanch schools' request to overturn
developer tax break 1

A state Supreme Court judge has rejected a lawsuit filed against the Babylon Industrial Development Agency by the Wyandanch school district seeking to overturn an apartment developer’s tax break.

The Article 78 proceeding stemmed from a 30-year tax abatement given in February 2020 to Albanese Organization Inc. of Garden City for 11 Park Dr., a 94-unit building that wraps around the Wyandanch Long Island Rail Road station parking garage. Albanese is estimated to save $12 million in property and sales taxes for the affordable housing building for those age 62 and older.

It was the fourth PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes, for Albanese. The company received two 40-year abatements and one 30-year abatement for three other buildings that are part of the Wyandanch Rising redevelopment, saving an estimated $35.2 million in taxes.

School district personnel objected to the latest deal at a public hearing, arguing that the PILOT, would result in “robbing” the district of tax revenue for decades. The IDA board voted unanimously for the abatement and the district filed the Article 78 motion several months later against the agency and Albanese.

The lawsuit alleged that the tax breaks were improperly given because residential projects are not covered under the state’s Industrial Development Agency Act and its provisions under the state’s general municipal law.

Judge Carmen Victoria St. George, in her March 29 decision, pointed to the IDA’s defense that a state comptroller opinion on whether apartment buildings fall under the commercial aspect of the law noted that the determination must be made by local officials. The opinion further states that “any such determination should take into account the stated purposes of the New York State Industrial Development Agency Act, that is, the promotion of employment opportunities and the prevention of economic deterioration.”

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St. George quoted an affidavit of district superintendent Gina Talbert where she said “the development of a senior residential project has the potential to be economically beneficial to the School District,” which the judge said confirmed that the IDA’s “determination was squarely in accord with the Act and not detrimental to petitioners.”

In a statement, Wyandanch board of education president James Crawford said the board is reviewing the decision and considering next steps. He said the board “continues to affirm the importance of collaboration between the District and community stakeholders as well as support all efforts in boosting the District’s financial health.”

IDA chief executive officer Tom Dolan, also in a statement, said the agency was pleased by the judge’s ruling.

“We have heard it time and time again from business leaders looking to build in the Town — without housing that their workers can actually afford to live in, our region cannot offer a competitive workforce and the local economy will suffer.”

Albanese chairman Russell Albanese did not respond to a request for comment.

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