I rarely read the comments section of any of the news articles posted on the Syracuse.com website–the online outlet for the Syracuse Post Standard newspaper. Recently a friend pointed me in the direction of one comment in particular on a story about US Rep. Dan Maffei and his new small business advisory committee:
The Urban Jobs Task Force, one of the most virulent community agitator groups in CNY that has come out in opposition to the Inner Harbor project unless the developer caves into its threats. The political platform of this organization is taken directly from the Working Families Party (WFP), which is to the far left of the Democrat party . . . The Syracuse Alliance for the New Economy believes in setting “living wages” well above state and federal mandates and has repeatedly threatened developers to enact “Community Benefit Agreements” stipulating an unreasonably high percentage of jobs go to poor residents from certain groups that reside in designated census tracts.
Check out this in-depth look by Yes! magazine at the 20 year battle waged by the Northwest Bronx Community Clergy Coalition to ensure that any development of the Kingsbridge Armory would benefit the residents of one of the poorest neighborhoods in N.Y.C.
And the Best news? The coalition has moved on to pursue city-wide legislation on development subsidies and living wages:
After the defeat of the Related shopping center, Ava Farkas, the former Coalition organizer, moved on to work for living-wage policies—not for developments in the Bronx, but for any development receiving public subsidies anywhere in New York City.
“It was the logical next step, to take the energy we’d unleashed and pass legislation so that neighborhoods don’t have to fight with every developer,” says Farkas. “We learned that although our organizing has been getting better and better, our membership base has been getting poorer and poorer. That’s because wealth is leaking out of the borough.”
In June of 2012, the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act passed. Under the terms of the legislation, any private developer accepting $1 million or more in subsidies must now pay employees a living wage of $10/hour with benefits, or $11.50 without. The Act was co-sponsored by Oliver Koppel, a Bronx Democrat, whose council district borders the armory.
NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the results of the third round of funding for economic development projects through his Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) initiative.
As part of the $67 million awarded to the CNY region, COR Development will receive $1.3 million to continue development of the Syracuse Inner Harbor, including relocating the historic freight house and removing three abandoned storage buildings, and constructing a 170,000 square foot mixed-use commercial/residential building.
COR Development has received significant funding for the Inner Harbor development project through the Regional Economic Development Council process in the first two rounds of funding as well: $3 million in 2011 and another $1.5 million in 2012.
85% of the projects in the CNY region promising to create new jobs in exchange for tax breaks failed to do so.
This startling fact is contained in a new report on the hodge-podge of economic development grants and tax breaks overseen by NY State’s Industrial Development Agencies (IDA’s), taxpayers aren’t getting many new jobs for their investment of tax dollars. The report, Regional Review: A Closer Look at New York’s $7 Billion Subsidy System was written by ALIGN NY.
In looking at the available regional data, we identified several problems. Simply put, there is very little transparency or accountability among these programs, spending is increasing in most regions of New York, a small number of big businesses are taking advantage of uncoordinated programs, and too often subsidies fail to create jobs for New Yorkers.
ALIGN suggests a solution: passage of the The Just and Open Business Subsidies (JOBS) Act, A8203:
New state legislation, offers key solutions to these problems by requiring recipients of economic development subsidies to set clear good job and local hiring targets, transparently track subsidies and job creation on a single public website, and establish a “money back guarantee” to recapture subsidies if recipients break their promises. By enacting common sense reforms, it will be possible to assess the effectiveness of all of New York’s economic development programs—at the local, regional, and statewide level.
The Urban Jobs Task Force has signed on as a supporter of this legislation.
Two blocks from the proposed Inner Harbor project of COR Development, developers are proposing the rehabilitation of a commercial building for use by two different firms–one a financial services firm and the other a sports medicine practice.
The financial firm estimates that 100 jobs will relocate from the Onondaga Co. suburbs and they will create an additional 50 jobs over 5 years.
Unlike COR, the developers are not being coy about their intentions to ask for public benefits. The group 706 N. Clinton LLC has applied for a $500,000 state grant to do asbestos and lead paint remediation. They are also asking for a 10 year, $1.2 million package of tax incentives from the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency: $896,720 in property tax discounts, $240,000 in exemptions from sales taxes on construction materials and $65,000 from an exemption from the state mortgage recording tax.
The UJTF has endorsed the NY State Assembly Bill A.08203: “Just and Open Business Subsidies Act of 2013″. (The JOBS Act for short!)
Introduced by Assembly Member Sean Ryan (D, Buffalo), the JOBS Act is an attempt to provide transparency to the over $7 billion in public subsidies given to private businesses by the taxpayers of New York’s cities and counties.
If enacted, the JOBS Act would require recipients of economic development subsidies to set clear good job and local hiring targets, transparently track subsidies and job creation on a single public website, and establish a “money back guarantee” to recapture subsidies if recipients break their promises.
Click here to link to the official description of the bill on the NY State Assembly’s website.
On October 15, the UJTF attended a public hearing held by the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency (SIDA) on the draft Environmental Impact Study conducted for the Inner Harbor project. The UJTF through Aggie Lane presented verbal and written comments calling for the designation of Syracuse as the Environmental Justice area for purposes of the study (as opposed to the 6 county CNY area) and using our Community Benefits Agreement as a means to meet the required standards.
Check out the UJTF’s written submission here:
Check out WSYR TV 9′s coverage of the S.I.D.A. hearing here.