Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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March 7th, 2013

Should Concord Receive Millions in Abatements?

It should be no surprise developers of the Concord are seeking millions in tax abatements and other incentives. The Industrial Development Agency (IDA) will be holding a public hearing Tuesday to hear what the public has to say about these requests.

At hand are three applications from Concord owner EPR Properties and their gaming partner Empire Resorts seeking abatements in excess of $200 Million.

The IDA has continually come under fire for awarding abatements to developers who do not live up to their end of the bargain. The Concord requests are similar to what was awarded to Louis Cappelli when he owned all the property.

Although the purpose of an IDA is to advance job opportunities, general prosperity and the economic welfare, IDAs across the state have been accused as being cesspools for corruption. In Sullivan County a mirrored Funding Corporation was created to circumvent certain rules and regulations.

Critics allege board members run welfare programs for the rich while ignoring the needs of residents and taxpayers. They point to projects that have assisted developers and business owners while doing little to stimulate our economy. A case in point is the Millennium Pipeline.

Innuendos that board members and their attorney partake in sinister questionable business practices are constant. In actuality, Sullivan County’s IDA has done a great deal of good and is misunderstood because people do not comprehend its function. Every business deal has its critics and its supporters. Attempts to falsely taint the IDA must cease.

The catch 22 quandary for the IDA is that developers and businesses will not come to depressed Sullivan County unless they are granted incentives and abatements. Years ago corporations fled New York State because enticements were offered elsewhere.

In the case of the Concord, critics claim developers are bankrolled and abatements are not needed. EPR is a publicly traded specialty real estate investment trust that already sunk millions into the Concord. They obtained the property after Cappelli defaulted. Empire Resorts is a public company partly owned by Asian casino magnet Genting, owner of Aqueduct’s Resorts Word and plans to build a $2 billion hotel-casino complex in Las Vegas.
In a time when property taxes are on a rise, mandates are slaughtering Sullivan County coffers, home foreclosures are at record highs, and people are struggling to pay bills, critics ask – Where are our tax abatements?

In the case of the Concord, the IDA must set guarantees to ensure developers are actually going to build whether legalized gaming is approved or not. Skeptics question if Empire Resorts will actually move their harness track and casino if they are not awarded a gaming license. Empire has insisted legalized gaming is not a factor.

The gaming industry is oversaturated and is struggling, and we need to offer visitors more than gaming halls. The Revel, Atlantic City’s $2.4 billion casino built with endless abatements and incentives, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy less than a year after it opened. Trump Casino was sold for $20 million it cost $120 million to build.

EPR says it intends to offer tourists much more. In fact, part of the abatements is for a planned $152 million indoor water park and hotel. Just as we have been promised casinos, we have been promised water parks.

At the very least, before abatements are awarded for a waterpark and hotel it should be disclosed who the waterpark and hotel operators are.

With certain guidelines and conditions, the IDA has no alternative but to award Concord developers the abatements they seek.

2 comments to Should Concord Receive Millions in Abatements?

  • cindy karras

    There is a lack of a theraputic swimming facility available to Sullivan County residents. If they were to build a water park. It would be a wonderful idea to give back to sullivan county residents a place where people with disabilities and senior’s to be able to have an indoor pool for exercise and be very affordable on a fixed income. If they get tax abatements can we include something that can really fill a void in our county.

  • Ernesto M. Salvatico Jr.

    Cindy, You have asked an excellent question. There should always be consideration by our community leaders of such incentives to the average tax paying residents. When tax abatements are being requested by the project development companies, incentives to the tax payers should be a major concern. You have brought up an important subject, that usually gets over looked by our leaders when it concerns the area tax payers. Some sort of free or low cost use privileges should be provided in these types of facilities. Individuals that can prove with proper Identification of their living status, should have some benefits form these tax abatements there are given to these developers. But only while these tax abatements are in effect. There after these facilities could/ should offer some type of membership program to the local tax payers and local renting residents. This would be a win,win situation for all parties involved. Ernesto M. Salvatico Jr.