The Hotel Built by the Poor

by Dave Duncan

$11 million in federal funds designated to improve the lives of low-moderate income people were squandered by Binghamton officials on the building of the Sheraton Hotel, now the Double Tree by Hilton. The $11 million was borrowed from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development. (HUD).  Using yearly funds designated by HUD for the poor, $10 million has been paid back, yet another million is still owed by the city and must be taken from future HUD funds. The total hotel bill for low income people was over $17 million.

                                       A Scam from the Beginning

The project developers, the Sarkisian Brothers with city approval, promised to create 238 full time equivalent jobs and rebuild the city’s tax base. This job number amounted to over one full time job per room.  This totally fabricated number was an addition to the fact that hotel and restaurant jobs were the lowest paying jobs in the nation. If poor people got these jobs they were certain to remain poor.

                                                    Tax Breaks

A long term property tax break was also built into this scheme. Because of the city’s financial support for the new hotel, other hotels in the city demanded and received property tax breaks. All Binghamton residents lost. Now we have a $17 million project that may be assessed for a couple of million.

                     Earlier Contribution from the Poor of Binghamton

The hotel was built on a whole block of downtown Binghamton that had been leveled by millions in public dollars from the City’s Urban Renewal Agency. These millions were also designated for the improvement of the lives of low income people. About 35—40 small businesses were torn down on this block by the Urban Renewal wrecking ball.

                              A Reason for Politicians to Celebrate?

In May of this year the Mayor of Binghamton, Matthew Ryan and the Broome County Executive, Debbie Preston were pictured at the hotel site celebrating the sale of the hotel to the new owners, Double Tree Hotels.  There was no mention made by either politician about the total of over $17 million of poor people’s  the city put into the hotel that has now been sold for $3.6 million. In 2013 dollars that would amount to $29.5 million. There was also no mention of “welfare” for the rich. There was also no mention of former Mayor Juanita Crabb and the former City Council Chairperson Gerard Lynch who led the fight for the hotel subsidies. There was no mention of some payback for the poor who got robbed. Why didn’t Preston or Ryan suggest that at least one floor of the hotel be set aside for the poor of the city?

                             Thoughts of a Downtown Resident

Rena Sardo Kovac has lived in the downtown area of Binghamton for all of her seventy years. Rena was also a plaintiff in a law suit that attempted to keep the city from committing millions of dollars designated for the poor to this project. She said that” Urban Renewal destroyed the downtown area and the small businesses there.” She finds the hotel situation deplorable. “Why would the city spend $17 million of funds for poor people on a hotel?  The whole project was a giveaway to Sarkisian developer who had, at best, a very questionable track record.” ” Why would our politicians be so happy about this theft from the poor? I only joined in the lawsuit because the poor would suffer if this deal happened and they did.”

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Should these people be smiling?                                                                               They cost taxpayers $29.5 million in today’s $$               

                     Will This Same Scenario Happen Again

In a short these politicians will move on to some political appointed job and then a good pension and retirement. The same political parties will offer us the same type candidates in the future.  Unless we the people make some serious changes in our form of government we will have new politicians, standing outside this hotel or some other give-a-way project praising the new scheme of transferring money from the many to a few. We need development that we can be proud of and politicians that answer to us.

 

 

 

 

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