The Nassau County Industrial Development Agency is set to hold hearings Aug. 6 and 7 on one of the biggest development projects in Long Beach in decades, a proposal to build hundreds of high-priced condominiums and rental units on the oceanfront Superblock property. The buildings would add to the city’s tax base, but the Garden City developer Engel Burman is asking for a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement, a request that has generated no shortage of controversy.
The hearings will be virtual, and will begin at 6 p.m. on Aug. 6 and 10 a.m. the following day. People can register to speak at www.nassauida.org.
Engel Burman has asked the IDA for a $52 million tax break. It originally requested that the payments be spread out over 30 years, but in recent weeks the developer has reduced its timeline to 25 years.
The IDA board will vote on Aug. 20 at 6:30 p.m. Chairman Richard Kessel has said that the agency would not approve the arrangement if the Long Beach City Council did not agree to it. The council’s stance on the proposal is unknown at the moment. Kessel could not be reached for comment as the Herald went to press.
Engel Burman, one of Long Island’s largest developers, has said that if the project is approved, construction could begin in December and be completed in four years. The development would cost $369 million, and there would be a total of 438 living units in three buildings along the boardwalk: two nine-story buildings containing 100 condos, and a 10-story building with 238 apartments. There would be also 30 apartments categorized as affordable housing, which would qualify for tax breaks.
The development would feature 6,500 square feet of retail space, including a restaurant and a convenience store. Two parking levels below the buildings would accommodate more than 1,000 vehicles.
In a March filing with the IDA and the city, Engel Burman stated, “The development will cause an economic surge to the waterfront and downtown business district and support area businesses by the influx of new residents.”
The developer, which has held several meetings with community members to discuss the project, warned that the PILOT agreement is essential. “The inability to obtain financial assistance from the [IDA] will doom the project and the site will remain vacant,” it stated in the filing.
Roy Lester, an attorney and a former president of the Long Beach Board of Education, is among those who have raised questions about the PILOT. He said he could not be certain how much the developer would actually pay in taxes. And Engel Burman, Lester said, should not determine the size of the PILOT it receives.
“They’re saying, ‘If we don’t build there, nobody will,’” Lester said. “That’s nonsense. It’s waterfront property.” He added that the IDA hearing is too important hold online, and that the agency should wait until live hearings can be held.
The site has been a vacant eyesore for the city for years. In 2014, another developer, iStar, proposed building on the site, but the city refused to support its request for $129 million in tax breaks. IStar filed a $100 million lawsuit against the city in 2017 that is still pending.