Never Ending Public Support for the Rich

In 1960, when many middle class city dwellers were moving to the suburbs, the federal government decided to help those people living in the inner city. The Urban Renewal program was begun. While in name UR funds were to improve lives of low income people, the program was hijacked by the banks and developers.

In Binghamton the UR program was a city project that was “coordinated” by the private Valley Development Foundation.  The banks, big businesses and the Press were the dues paying members of VDF.  The city even allowed VDF to screen applicants for the U R Director’s job.

Urban Renewal tore down many blocks of downtown Binghamton. According to Binghamton’s UR records over 400 small and medium sized businesses were eliminated from the downtown area. A very large part of the city’s tax base was destroyed. All of this destruction of fine old buildings from the 1880’s and 1890’s and the elimination of business was done by and for the benefit of the local economic elite, but in the name of low income people.

Urban Renewal was seen by the local residents as a program of theft. Having been found out, Urban Renewal went into hiding. Similar programs, with new names and strategies for fleecing the public were developed and they are now county wide. They call themselves development agencies. A major one is the Broome County Industrial Development Agency which was sold as a vehicle to bring jobs to the workers of a distressed area. Many of the Binghamton properties now benefitting from IDA tax breaks were publically sponsored projects of the UR agency. Two Court, the former First City National Bank, was built on property that purchased by the taxpayers, the businesses leveled, and then sold for a small amount of the public expense to the bank. The same is true for the former Marine Midland Bank on Hawley St. This is the building with all of the black windows. The Urban Renewal agency purchased the land, tore down the small businesses and sold cheaply to Marine Midland. The hotel that is now the Riverwalk has a similar history. The City still owes over $700,000 that it borrowed for the hotel from the federal fund allocated for low income people.  The Urban Renewal Agency said the reason for their destructive actions, was that downtown would be renewed and the tax base would be rebuilt. 

Same Old Program, Different Agency

Once again the downtown properties are being given public support in the form of tax breaks, lower assessments, and NYS money in order to restore the tax base of Binghamton and create jobs.  Do these subsidies ever end? Will the Binghamton mayors, the county executives ever be able to give the rich developers enough? It is welfare for the rich. 

Following is the story of the Broome County Industrial Development Agency.

 

 

 

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