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Wednesday 7 December 2022
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City Sues Developer for Seeking Special Tax Deal; Minority Contractors Say Mayor’s Killing Project for City Residents

By Staff

 

Vision local Syracuse Inner Harbor

Mayor Miner details the city’s lawsit against COR Development Co. for seeking a special tax deal from the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency.

Mayor Stephanie Miner has announced the city will sue COR Development Co. for seeking a special tax deal with the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency in lieu of hiring city residents; however, critics of the mayor’s decision said she may be killing the project for contractors who do provide jobs for local residents.

“We have worked with COR on numerous projects within the last two plus years,” Eli Smith, owner of So Gone Trash Removal LLC and E. Smith Contractors, stated. “My company employs about 20 people within the city of Syracuse. Ninety percent of the people who work for me are African American. They have worked on several projects for COR. We’ve worked on no less than, I would say, 10 different projects with COR within the last two years. My experience with COR has been great. They have always been willing to help, and assist in the growth of my company.”

Smith said he employs 24 people total, and the city’s lawsuit seemed to be more about the rift between the city and county governments than protecting local and minority workers.

“There are multiple projects going on within the city, and the city doesn’t put any pressure on any of these schools, or other projects they see going on every single day, to hire minorities,” he stated. “They should be doing that, instead of putting pressure on them [COR], in particular, without knowing how many minorities they do work with. I think their feelings are hurt because COR went over their heads. And, not once have I been contacted by any politician about my relationship with COR.”

Miner said COR deliberately sought a tax relief deal, or “payment in lieu of taxes” (PILOT) deal, from OCIDA to allow the company to avoid an agreement with the city, which would have bound the company to provide project-related jobs to city residents, and minorities, for the $324 million development project.

COR has planned to develop the inner harbor into a hotel, with residential, retail and office space, and the mayor said the new deal would provide the company with $44 million in tax breaks.

“We are taking this action because the people of Syracuse deserve more than a promise of trickle-down economic development, in exchange for another sweetheart tax break worth millions,” the mayor said at a press conference Dec. 15. “It has been the policy of my administration to extend a PILOT agreement only if there is a commensurate community benefit to the public written into the deal. By doing this end run with OCIDA, COR avoided entering into a binding agreement to meet perhaps our most pressing need – to provide jobs and training to people so they can escape poverty.”

Miner also clashed with the company two years ago, after opposing Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s $500 million proposal to develop a stadium at Syracuse University.

COR and Mahoney had reportedly secured $200 million in state funds for the project.

“We represent the people of the city of Syracuse,” the mayor stated. “We do not represent the developers.”

Miner has frequently been at odds with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mahoney, and, in this case, she said the company had given the city both its verbal and written agreement that it would not ask for a property tax deal from the county. However, 13 days later, Miner said the company filed an application with OCIDA for the 15-year tax deal, which OCIDA approved in a 4-0 vote Tuesday.

County legislators have also said they’re concerned Miner’s lawsuit will halt construction on the project altogether, and, if a judge grants the city’s request to void its agreement with COR, the company would be required to return the land to the city.

Yet, Syracuse Common Councilor Khalid Bey, chair of the Council’s economic development committee, and a frequent supporter of Miner’s, has also said the company reneged on its deal.

“The recent OCIDA vote to give COR a PILOT was done with absolute disregard for the city’s taxpayers,” Bey stated. “Go figure that this public entity would blatantly ignore the wishes, and best interests, of the city’s residents. OCIDA’s action circumvents the city’s leverage to assure work opportunities, and affordable living, for city residents. It’s actions like this that engenders a distaste for government in so many.”

The city did not name OCIDA as a defendant in the lawsuit, which it filed in state Supreme Court, but said OCIDA board members had neglected to attend a public hearing Dec. 1, at which several attendees had spoken in opposition to COR’s application. The suit also said OCIDA had made no documents available to the public, which would have indicated the details of the deal.

“Today, OCIDA gave COR a tax benefit agreement with no real and effective community benefit to the people of Syracuse,” Miner stated.

OCIDA’s approval of COR’s application reportedly came after about 70 members and supporters of the Urban Jobs Task Force had previously objected to the application.

A COR representative said the company is currently reviewing the city’s lawsuit, but it believes its behavior has been “proper and appropriate.”

A representative from OCIDA had no comment on the matter.

According to syracuse.com, ultimately, Miner may be willing to compromise in order to settle the lawsuit.

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