Lawrence opposes proposed building project

School board believes PILOT payment plan will cost district money


Once again the Lawrence Board of Education is at odds with the Town of Hempstead Industrial Development Agency over a proposed project in the school district that according to district officials could cost its taxpayers at least $1.5 million in annual revenue and possibly result in a property tax increase for district residents.

At a special morning meeting in the superintendent’s conference room on Jan. 21, five trustees: Board President Murray Forman, Board Vice President Dr. Asher Mansdorf, and Trustees Heshy Blachorsky, Abel Feldhamer and Michael Hatten voted unanimously to oppose the requested 20-year payment in lieu of taxes plan requested by JFK Logistics Center LLC. Trustees Tova Plaut and Dr. David Sussman did not attend the Tuesday meeting.

“As part of this process, we as the school district have the opportunity to get a complete picture of the project and have the appropriate input into approving the effects vital for the financial interest of the school district,” Forman said.

Previously, Lawrence sued the town’s IDA over a 10-year PILOT plan for a Raymour & Flanigan warehouse in 2017. The district lost, but is appealing that decision.

PILOTS are incentives used to attract or maintain businesses that are anticipated to draw economic development and jobs to the surrounding communities.

Frederick Parola, executive director and chief executive officer of the IDA, is in complete disagreement with the district’s assessment of the JFK project. “But for the IDA incentives there would not be a project,” Parola said, explaining that taxes in the form of the PILOT payments are expected to be made. The payments begin at a low percentage of 1.5 and incrementally increase through the life of the PILOT.

He added that having the project go forward is a positive for the community as a whole. “Taxes go up, the property is improved and full taxes are instituted,” Parola said. “It’s a win-win. No children are added to the school district. They bought the property before they got the benefits. Then they contacted us informally.”

The planned project entails construction of a three-story, 235,234-square-foot building on a 10.71 acre parcel at 253-51 Rockaway Blvd. in Woodmere, by Manhattan-based real estate company Wildflower LTD.

The proposal includes warehouse and office space, and self-storage uses. A one-story, coffee kiosk will also be at the southern end of the property along Rockaway Boulevard. 

A coffee kiosk is planned to be 550-square-feet in size and include a drive-thru that can fit up to 20 cars. The site is roughly one mile from John F. Kennedy International Airport.

It was previously a long-term parking airport parking lot. It is adjacent to the Five Town’s Shopping Center and a Lowe’s Home Improvement store.

Wildflower Managing Partner Adam Gordon, the self-described coffee fan, has been overseeing the project. “As an avid coffee enthusiast, I thought what would be better than developing our own coffee kiosk,” Gordon told the Herald previously. “I look at this as giving back to the community by providing them with world-class coffee.”

As of press time, Gordon did not respond for comment on the Lawrence Board of Education’s action.

There was an IDA hearing scheduled for Jan. 23 at Town Hall. Parola said that the hearing was adjourned. It is yet to be rescheduled.

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