New I.D.A. Assault on Vestal Tax Payers

  by Edward Zyskowski

             On July 2nd, 7 p.m. at the Vestal Town Hall, the Broome County Industrial Development Agency held a public meeting regarding the proposed PILOT for the Vestal Nursing Home Rehabilitation Center, which is to be built on West Sheedy Rd, Vestal. This is a replacement facility for the Vestal Park Rehabilitation and Nursing Center from Old Vestal Road which flooded in 2006 and 2011.

The PILOT being requested for by Upstate SK, LLC is a 50% tax for the first 5 years, a 75% tax for the next 5 years and full payment after that. They are also expecting a sales tax exemption for all materials regarding construction. This PILOT request is being made in addition to a $9.2 million HEAL grant from the New York State Department of Health which has been secured. Depending on approval of the PILOT, Upstate SK, LLC is expecting to obtain a federal Department of Housing and Urban Development mortgage in the amount of $29.3 million which is required for the project. There are apparently, considerable tax dollars involved in this project.

After requesting that everyone sign in the presentation began. With the skill of a carnival barker, Richard D’attilio from the IDA spewed forth dollar values of incredible amounts. All of them related to promises of wages, jobs and benefits to all. Later clarification of these numbers would be requested. We were soon to learn that many of the numbers the IDA uses are baseline figures pulled from the clouds as they appear to be based on speculation. At the forefront, however, there is always the promise of jobs, jobs and more jobs.

Further along in the meeting, the job question needed to be clarified, especially in the event they do not materialize. The IDA apparently has a way in which to handle that eventuality should it ever present itself as it has in other cases. The Broome County IDA has been cited numerous times by New York State for failure to keep track of the jobs they have created. This is especially important considering the amount of money involved for job creation.

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I found it interesting to learn that Upstate SK, LLC which is headed in a 50 – 50 split by Efraim Steif and Uri Koenig, is directly affiliated with Upstate Services Group, LLC which owns no less than 11 other nursing homes. Their assets include: Central Park Rehabilitation and Nursing Center; Pine Valley Center; Capstone Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing; Chestnut Park Rehabilitation and Nursing; Colonial Park Rehabilitation and Nursing; Hudson Park Rehabilitation and Nursing, Highland Park Rehabilitation and Nursing; Cortland Park Rehabilitation and Nursing; Riverside Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing and others. Upstate Services Group, LLC took over the Bridgewater Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing on Front Street in Binghamton in 2005. They also took over the Vestal Park Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in June of 2011. I would like to point out that the Bridgewater Center was run by Botnick 5 Ventures. This is important as the proposed site for the new nursing home in Vestal is owned by Rambo Realty LLC and Botnick 5 Ventures as was recently gleaned from the Broome County Graphic Information System. Interesting how this carousel of LLCs goes round and round.

From the meeting it was apparent that even more LLC’s will be thrown into the mix, all protected by their wonderful LLC laws. Meanwhile, where is the protection for the tax payers and neighborhoods upon which this project will inflict itself?

At a time when all of the local municipalities including Broome County are fighting for tax dollars, especially from sales tax, how a PILOT of this magnitude, for an entity of incredible assets, would even be considered is shocking, but as was learned, in depth investigation is not one of the IDA’s strong points.

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The meeting continued as some local concerns were presented including how the site was picked. Apparently the representative of the project did not know of the Botnick 5 Ventures’ connection, however, she assured everyone that she drove around and this “was” the best location. I found that interesting as Mr. Kamlet, the lawyer representative of Upstate SK, LLC stated that this may not be the best location. As time went on threats were made concerning the loss of jobs, the need for nursing homes, the possibility that this project may not go in if the PILOT isn’t granted, the threat of what could go in this site and on and on. Many threats, all based on whether the PILOT is approved under the eye of the BCIDA.  Interesting, as all of this comes from a group that spent over $85,000.00 in health care funding lobbying efforts in 2011 and 2012 in New York State. I would also like to point out that patients from the flooded Vestal nursing home were placed at Willow Point and the Greater Binghamton Health Care facility.  It is important to know this as Broome County was considering a replacement nursing facility to be built at the Greater Binghamton Health Center, to replace the Willow Point Nursing Home.

Compared to the proposed site for the new Vestal Nursing Home I have to say, the Greater Binghamton Health Center is higher and dryer. If part of the patient population is already there, why not join with the county and build there, after all a sizable amount of taxpayer dollars will be involved either way.

There is a question and it is a very important question. Who, in fact, oversees the activity of the Broome County Industrial Development Agency? This board, on which some local politicians sit, has god like powers over tax deals all in the guise of supposed job creation. Thousands if not millions of dollar figures are bantered about with promises of future greatness, all the while inflicting itself in neighborhoods, which were not informed of the meeting in a timely way, while simultaneously demanding changes by the surrounding families of entire lifestyles. Let’s not forget the fact that taxpayers, who do not get such fantastic deals, will be picking up the difference.

What is needed is oversight of the BCIDA and perhaps nothing short of a State and Federal investigation. I, for one, do not like tax deals to entities that have the assets to complete a project without any such outside dealing. It furthermore makes for bad neighbors.

This nursing home project has been a work of sleight of hand, for the public viewer since its inception. The inclusion of the BCIDA, which is a lapdog for big business, only makes it more of a carnival as we are all along for the ride, albeit not a good one and one I do not wish to be on.

 

 

 

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