New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan urged the Erie County Industrial Development Agency (ECIDA) to reject tax breaks being sought by the Uniland Development Company for a planned administrative center for Catholic Health downtown. The six-story 140,000 sq.ft. building is planned for a long-vacant parcel at Genesee and Oak streets.
BTC Block 1/21 Inc., a Uniland affiliate, has applied for tax breaks from the ECIDA for the project. In a letter to ECIDA Chairman of the Board John J. LaFalce, Ryan urged the ECIDA board to reject tax breaks for Uniland when it meets to decide on the matter next Monday. Ryan argued that the project to construct a building for Uniland that will be leased to Catholic Health is already set in stone and a rejection of tax breaks for Uniland will not stop the project from happening. Ryan also argued that the subsidies for Uniland would amount to a tax giveaway to a developer that does nothing to further the Catholic Health project.
“The new Catholic Health headquarters will be a welcome addition to the downtown gateway to the City of Buffalo,” said Assemblyman Ryan. “Buffalo is fortunate to have a great organization like Catholic Health, bringing needed investment in downtown Buffalo, as well as creating an exciting new medical training program that will benefit all of Western New York. This project is already set in stone and is moving forward. Four million in state funding, secured by my colleague Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes will be going to this project, and the ceremonial groundbreaking has already taken place. Why should the taxpayers of Erie County be expected to provide nearly $5 million to subsidize a developer, when the tax subsidies will do nothing to create more jobs or improve the overall project?”
Last October, Catholic Health announced that they would construct a new Administrative and Regional Training Center on a vacant parcel of land located at 144 Genesee Street between Elm and Oak Streets. The new facility will be home to 700 Catholic Health administrative professionals and will include regional training center that will be used by both Catholic Health and the community for healthcare-related training. The new $46 million dollar facility will receive $4 million in state funding administered by the City of Buffalo that was secured by Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes. Catholic Health estimates that the new consolidated administrative building will save them over $1 million per year for the next 25 years.
“Uniland will own the building and lease it to Catholic Health for two years, at which time Catholic Health anticipates that it will purchase the building from Uniland,” Ryan added. “Catholic Health is a tax exempt organization. Therefore, when Catholic Health acquires the building they will already have zero tax obligations. Simply put, Catholic Health will see no benefit whatsoever from any potential tax breaks. Uniland has already been selected as the developer and Catholic Health is committed to seeing this project though to the very end, even without tax subsidies for the developer of their building. Giving away tax dollars at this point is completely unnecessary and would only serve to help maximize Uniland’s profits. I am calling on the ECIDA to reject Uniland’s proposal.”
Ryan has called on the IDAs to stop giving away tax subsidies that do little to create the kind of good our entire region needs. Property and sales tax breaks given out by IDA’s in Erie County mean less revenue for every single municipality and school district in Erie County. In addition, tax breaks are often given to businesses that are already planning to expand, as was the case with the Premier Liquor deal in Amherst, and the recent Towne Mini deal in Clarence. IDAs approving tax break deals for donut shops, liquor stores, yoga studios and other retail projects have prompted Ryan to call for reform of the IDA system in Erie County. Ryan has also introduced legislation to reform the way IDAs do business in Erie County, and will continue to push IDA reform in the upcoming legislative session.
“Our IDAs should use three very important criteria when determining eligibility for tax breaks,” Ryan added. “First, will the project bring jobs in from outside of New York? Second, is the business that would receive the benefit threatening to leave our region? Third, does the project actually fit the standard for adaptive reuse? This Uniland project does not meet all of these criteria, and therefore tax subsidies should not be awarded. While some new jobs will be created, no new jobs are coming into New York State from other areas. Both Uniland and Catholic Health have a strong presence in Western New York and are in no way threatening to leave the area. Finally, this is a new development that does not fit the criteria for adaptive reuse. This proposal from Uniland doesn’t even meet basic eligibility standards and should be rejected by the ECIDA.”