Great Neck residents and elected officials expressed opposition on Friday to the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency granting tax breaks to the developer of a proposed mixed-use building in the Village of Great Neck Plaza, saying that the proposed tax breaks would put a financial burden on taxpayers.
“I don’t think that’s fair,” Great Neck Plaza Trustee Gerry Schneiderman said of proposed tax breaks sought by developer Hooshang Nematzadeh.
Speaking at a public hearing on the IDA application at Great Neck Plaza Village Hall, Schneiderman and others questioned the need for a 10-year tax break on a proposed 42,000 square foot, four-story mixed-use building at 5-9 Grace Ave. that would include two storefronts or corporate offices on the ground level and 30 apartments on the second, third and fourth floors.
The building, which was approved by the Great Neck Plaza Board of Trustees in December and by the board of zoning appeals in January, is the first building to be approved under the village’s Business “B” District zoning law, which allows for residential units to be built on top of storefronts or offices.
Joseph Kearney, executive director of the Nassau County IDA, told residents at the hearing that “nothing has been determined” concerning the proposed tax breaks.
“This is simply the IDA doing its due diligence,” Kearney said. “There is still discussion to be had and it is merely a proposal.”
One resident at the meeting told Kearney that tax breaks should only be granted for areas that are under-developed and that Grace Avenue was a “prime location.”
“Any developer would pay money to build there,” the resident said. “That area does not need tax abatements.”
Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender agreed, saying Great Neck Plaza is not an area where tax breaks are needed because the village offers local incentives.
Nematzadeh, who was not present at the hearing, said on Tuesday that the 5-9 Grace Ave. site “has remained vacant for a long, long time.”
“If any developer would have wanted to build there then it would have been built by now,” said Nematzadeh who is president of the Great Neck Chamber of Commerce and a Village of Kings Point trustee.
Rebecca Sassousini, a resident of Kings Point, said Nematzadeh should have to prove that he would not be able to continue with the project if he did not receive tax breaks from the IDA.
“It’s very likely that [he] could continue without tax abatements,” Sassousini said.
She also said that the tax breaks, if granted, would not only put a financial burden on taxpayers, but that it might cause some people to move out of Great Neck.
“It will cause flight,” Sassousini said.
Nematzadeh said that without the IDA tax breaks, no rental buildings would be able to be constructed.
“A third of any profits, in any locality, goes to taxes,” he said. “It’s not feasible [without tax breaks.”]
Jonathan Powell, Great Neck public school assistant superintendent for business, said he did not have specific concerns about Nematzadeh’s IDA application, but was concerned in general with the length of time developers are allowed to not pay taxes under IDA agreements.
“We feel like 10 years is long enough,” Powell said, adding that developers should not be getting 30-year tax break agreements.
Nematzadeh said the application for tax breaks was only for 10 years.
Powell, who said he had not seen a copy of Nematzadeh’s IDA application, said he wanted Nematzadeh to prove what the “actual economic benefit to the Village of Great Neck Plaza” would be and how many school-aged children would be moving into the building.
Nematzadeh said he does not expect many school-aged children to move into the building, but does expect the building to bring “purchasing power” to Great Neck Plaza.
“When you build rental buildings or bring populations to local areas within train stations, you bring purchasing power and those people procure things from the stores and the stores thrive,” he said. “The livelihood of the stores depend on the population.”
Two full-time jobs will be created in the building after its completion, according to the IDA application.
Nematzadeh said in May that he is working out a payment in lieu of taxes – known as a PILOT- agreement with the village that would pay the amount of village taxes owed to Great Neck Plaza.
“We understand village needs every dime of this to provide the services,” he said.
Nematzadeh added that only five residents of the Plaza’s near-7,000 population showed up to the hearing, saying that the other residents “do not oppose the tax breaks.”