PRESS & PUBLICATIONS
Industrial Development Agencies Do What Again?, Oct. 1, 2014
-Letter to the Editor-
October 1, 2014
"Industrial" Development Agencies Do What Again?
Recently, Newsday detailed a series of taxpayer-funded benefits bestowed upon TRITEC, the developers of the project known as the Ronkonkoma Hub (Brookhaven IDA OKs $16M tax break for Ronkonkoma Hub plan, September 9, 2014). This is in addition to a $2.3 million dollar grant from Suffolk County to subsidize the infrastructure cost for the development (Newsday, August 15, 2014), $4 million dollars from the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council to design the sewage treatment plant, $21 million in funding from Suffolk County for the cost of the sewage treatment plant (Newsday June 5, 2012) and another $1 million from the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council for good measure. Not to mention the approval from the Town of Brookhaven to rezone the roughly 50 acres surrounding the Ronkonkoma Station to allow for 1,450 apartments along with nearly 600,000 square feet of retail and office space.
Three basic questions come to mind.
(1) Why is an "Industrial Development Agency" whose job it is to increase the number of high, value-added industrial jobs bestowing so many benefits on a residential and retail development project? Islip MacArthur Airport, like many small airports, continues to struggle and light manufacturing within the region continues to decline. In fact, according to recent census data, the industrial area surrounding the airport lost over 2,000 jobs or 10% of its workforce between 2004-2012. In contrast, the US payroll as a whole grew over 1.7% in the same period (Source: 2004, 2012 County Business Patterns, US Census Bureau). This project, heavily subsidized by taxpayer dollars, will primarily generate temporary construction jobs and low-wage retail jobs.
(2) If the project is such an economic engine for the region - why do taxpayers need to shell out $44.3 million dollars in benefits just to get the project started? A similar project in the Town of Babylon, Wyandanch Rising, was also billed as an economic engine for the region but was recently awarded a second round of tax breaks due to the developer’s inability to attract a single commercial tenant.
(3) The County Executive has made water quality his number one priority. However, high density projects like the Ronkonkoma Hub add so much density that they will contribute more nitrogen to groundwater than low or moderate density developments - even with the benefit of taxpayer subsidized sewage treatment plants. Recent cuts to critically needed water quality staffing numbers, the raiding of the County's Drinking Water Protection Fund to balance the County budget and unsustainable developer benefits packages like this only call into question the County's commitment to water quality.
Sooner or later, our elected officials must learn that "build baby build" is not a panacea for ailing government finances, declining water quality and a diminished quality of life for the region.
Daniel J. Gulizio