Curran announces IDA reforms

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County Executive Laura Curran (center) announces IDA reforms at the Roosevelt Legislative Building in Mineola on Tuesday (Photo by Luke Torrance).

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced Tuesday that the county’s Industrial Development Agency will be closing a loophole that allows storage facilities and car dealerships to receive tax breaks.

“We don’t believe those spur real economic development,” Curran said during a press conference at the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola.

The closing of the so-called “tourism loophole” was announced alongside several transparency reforms. The IDA will now be required to hit performance benchmarks and hold quarterly meetings, which will be broadcasted online and will allow public comment.

Elected officials will now be notified if an IDA project is being proposed for their district, along with local community groups. Applicants and their consultants will be required to disclose political contributions made to the county or the impacted elected officials.

Curran announced that local labor would be mandated to the greatest extent possible and that benefits would be expanded for projects that build transit-oriented development.

“Transit-oriented development, I believe, is what will save us as a region, grow our tax base, [and] keep our young people,” Curran said.

She also said that job creation requirements would be clarified and strengthened and that there would be clawback benefits if development fell short of its job creation and economic goals.

Richard Kessel, an IDA board member appointed by Curran, said the board would begin looking at these reforms immediately.

Nassau County’s IDA routinely has more projects and hands out more tax exemptions than the IDAs of Suffolk and Westchester counties, according to data from the state comptroller’s office.

Yet Nassau finished last between the three counties in jobs created between 2010 and 2015, the most recent data available. Nassau’s expense per job gained was $300 in 2015, twice as much as Westchester and three times as much as Suffolk.

The IDA is currently being audited by Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman, who said he is trying to find out why the county is paying so much more than other New York City suburbs.

Curran’s announcement came after three additional positions were filled at the IDA following approval from the Nassau County Legislature on Monday.

“I’m proud to announce that we have a fully constituted board,” she said.

When asked if she would consider replacing other IDA personnel like executive director Joseph Kearney, Curran said that was beyond her powers.

“The board answers to the state, it’s a state-created entity, and it’s up to the state to make decisions,” she said.

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