Thursday, February 6, 2014

Morelle wants investigation of Medley's state tax credits

Posted By on Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 2:40 PM

State Assembly member Joe Morelle is calling for Empire State Development to investigate whether the Medley Centre project still is, or should be, eligible for its Empire Zone benefits.

Developer Scott Congel bought the Irondequoit mall and the company that owns it, Bersin Properties, several years ago. Over the years, his plans for the mall property have changed and nobody is sure what he has in mind anymore other than a hotel, which has been a constant for the project. Congel has even failed to maintain the property. The mall was granted Empire Zone status before Congel bought it.  

Morelle sent Kenneth Adams, president of  Empire State Development, a letter making the investigation request this morning. He is specifically targeting Empire Zone tax credits that Bersin properties receives for the Medley project. Morelle says the credits are conditioned on the developer employing at least two people in Monroe County as part of the project. From his letter to Adams, which is embedded in full at the bottom of the post:

"Given the current physical condition of the mall, it is impossible to believe that anyone is employed by Bersin on the site. The outside of the property is in major disrepair and, as I noted above, there are no tenants left inside the mall. In addition, it has been widely reported that heat has been shut off to the building and pipes have burst causing extensive flooding inside and outside. Last month, the Town of Irondequoit was forced to take emergency actions to mitigate substantial structural failures at a water pump station located on Medley Centre property. Given what appears to be an abandonment of the site, please advise me as to the location of Bersin employees that would constitute a fulfillment of their obligations articulated in the terms of their Empire Zone re-certification."

Morelle says the project has received $4 million in Empire Zone credits since 2004, which was prior to Congel's purchase of the property. The credits, which until now have covered the full amount of Congel's PILOT agreement payments, expire in 2017.

The request comes two days after officials from the Town of Irondequoit, East Irondequoit school district, and Monroe County Industrial Development Agency issued an ultimatum to Bersin Properties. On Tuesday, the officials sent the company a letter saying it needs to make good on $3.9 million in outstanding payment by May 1, or the town and school district would ask COMIDA to terminate the incentive agreement.

Specifically, Bersin Properties failed to make its annual payment under a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with the three government bodies. And it also failed to make a $3.5 million penalty payment, which it owes because last year it missed a $165 million investment milestone in the project.

Congel has asked for an amended PILOT agreement, saying in letters that the current agreement is an obstacle to getting financing for the project. Officials have asked him and representatives from his prospective financiers to meet with them and elaborate, but Congel has backed out of those meetings, Morelle says. 

In light of the recent events, the credibility of Medley Centre's owners is in question, Morelle said during a noontime press conference today. 

"They have failed to meet their promised commitments," he said.

Morelle Letter to K Adams Re Medley-EZ 02.05.2014 by jmouleatcity

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