The Town of Hempstead Industrial Development Agency’ adjourned their June 30 meeting after only 10 minutes, unable to continue with a vote to break all ties with Macerich, the California-based owner of the Green Acres Mall, because a Nassau County Supreme Court judge halted the IDA’s decision with a temporary restraining order.
“[The IDA] is restrained from terminating all agreements relating to Green Acres, LLC and Green Acres Adjacent, LLC,” Arthur Nastre, chairman of the IDA, read from the judge’s ruling at the meeting. “Therefore we cannot and will not take any action on the agenda item.”
The IDA voted to revoke the mall’s tax breaks on April 27, claiming that payroll records from Macerich showed that the mall only created 45 jobs instead of the more than 900 jobs it was supposed to create under the PILOT agreement. If the judge had not made the order, the IDA would have officially terminated all of the agreements it had with the mall at the June 30 meeting.
According to Nastre, the decision means that the mall will remain off the county’s tax rolls and will continue to make payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs, to the school districts, the village, the town, the county and the state. Their next payment is due in mid-July.
“School districts will … get their PILOT money as if nothing happened to begin with,” said Nastre, addressing District 24 Superintendent Ed Fale.
The judge’s decision comes after months of confusion for school officials from Valley Stream Central High School District and from District 30 about the taxable status of the mall. As of the June 27 ruling by Judge Timothy Driscoll, the revocation of the tax breaks had yet to be officiated, because it still had not been returned to the county’s tax rolls.
Meanwhile, the school districts were finalizing their budgets for the 2017-18 school year. “We were again being asked to guess if we were getting tax money or PILOT revenue,” District 30 Superintendent Nicholas Stirling said. “It is not our job to guess.”
Stirling said that the judge’s ruling gave the district some clarity ahead of its August 15 deadline to finalize the tax levy. “The decision by this judge is something that we have to follow,” said Stirling, adding that he wished the mall were put back on the tax rolls. “But that, at least, is a decision.”
Nassau County Legislator Carrie Solages (D-Elmont) expressed his contempt for the decision in a June 28 in a Facebook post. “Hopefully we can call Supervisor Santino to do the right thing and to revoke the PILOT based on other reasons, such as the fact there was no proper notice or no impact study,” he wrote.
The PILOT agreement reduced the mall’s tax payments by about $6.5 million in October, and will phase in a new assessed value over the duration of the plan. The temporary restraining order comes as two of Valley Stream school districts are inching toward a lawsuit over how the law that decides how the Central High School District is funded.