Paterson, legislative leaders reach deal on brownfields program

Gov. David Paterson and legislative leaders agreed today to revise the state’s brownfield program to
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Gov. David Paterson and legislative leaders agreed today to revise the state’s brownfield program to continue giving companies a tax break for environmental cleanup and redevelopment of polluted sites.

But several other major issues appeared unresolved as the legislative session neared its end. Among them was Paterson’s call for a 4-percent cap on local property tax increases, most of them school taxes. Legislative leaders have sided with the state’s powerful teachers unions and other public unions that have opposed the cap on grounds it would hurt school funding.

Paterson argues New York has the highest property taxes in the nation and a “blunt instrument” is needed to turn the tide and force hard decisions by school districts.

A Siena College poll last week found 74 percent of New Yorkers supported Paterson’s tax cap.

Paterson said he and leaders will continue to work on the proposal this summer and he doubted such a landmark change could have been achieved this session.

Under the brownfields revisions, companies will get half of the cost of cleaning a site to the point it can be redeveloped, Paterson said. The current reimbursement has been 22 percent. The deal also saves the state from developers’ charging “huge amounts of money” on remediation.

The measure — intended to protect the environment while attracting more jobs — has eluded agreement for years.

While the plan was to help the environment and stimulate the upstate economy, many tax breaks were going to lucrative hotel developments in Manhattan and Westchester County rather than replacing crumbling factories with affordable housing in upstate cities.

The leaders also agreed to give a boost to the Borscht Belt.

An aid package was approved for a planned $1 billion resort in the Catskills with gambling, golf and a spa that advocates say will revitalize the area.

About 2,000 permanent jobs are expected to be created, said Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, a Rensselaer County Republican.

Westchester County developer Louis Cappelli wants to build a massive resort on the site of the Borscht Belt’s old Concord Hotel that would include the video lottery terminals and harness track now located at the nearby Monticello Raceway. But Cappelli claims he needs to keep a larger share of lottery terminal revenues to make the project viable.

The Concord, with some 1,200 rooms, was a Catskills mainstay in the days when the area was packed with summer tourists, many of them Jewish families up from New York City.

Paterson and the legislators also agreed to provide more mental health records to federal officials who grant firearms licenses and permits. The records will include whether an applicant received residential mental health care. The action was prompted by the Virginia Tech University massacre more than a year ago.

Categories: Schenectady County

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