New York’s recently enacted budget makes it harder for local industrial development agencies to award tax breaks for retail projects.

Or so it says.

The new rules are pretty easy to get around. The state carved out three exceptions. A project has to be a tourist destination, the good or service is not currently provided in the area or the project is in an economically distressed area.

A 20,000-square foot grocery store planned for the University of Rochester’s College Town has applied for sales tax breaks of $180,000 on its $2.7 million project. Which exception is COMIDA using? College Town is clearly not a tourist destination. College Town is also not in an economically distressed area, as the Strong-Highland area is one of the city’s most desirable.

COMIDA’s analysis of the application says the “project qualifies because it will provide a product or service to the area that otherwise would not be available.” I’m not sure how all of the doctors at Strong and students at U of R have been able to survive since the Mt. Hope Wegmans closed. There’s a Tops 2 miles away, as well as a CVS and dollar store within walking distance. What’s more, the University of Rochester has a food store on campus, called the Hillside Market. Check out the picture of Hillside below and tell me that doesn’t look like a grocery store.

Hillside Market

Hillside Market

I’m sure the grocery store will be a welcome addition, but at 20,000 square feet, it’s no Wegmans. It will be slightly larger than the Trader Joe’s in Pittsford.

Already, IDA’s are figuring out how to bypass the rules. A Costco in Syracuse and a Dick’s Sporting Goods in Batavia were deemed tourist attractions.

It’s important to remember why the state wanted to rein in retail tax breaks. These projects are not economic development tools. They create low-wage jobs, often would have happened anyway and create an unequal playing field.

Update: Mayor Tom Richards says the neighborhood has been clamoring for a grocery store and the project fits the bill.

Links of the Day:

- Gitsis is getting a name change and makeover. It will now serve specialty coffees and close in the overnight hours.

- Rochester was really good at throwing out beautiful architecture for bland buildings.

- People with disabilities worry about how state budget cuts will affect their lives.

- In Bronx County, defendants often wait several years to go on trial. Justice system is broken.

- The Boston Globe visits Buffalo and finds a city “brimming with energy.”

- You’ve never seen subway stations like these.

Posted in News | Tagged | 8 Comments

8 Responses to Getting Around the Rules

  1. CVS and a Dollar Store are not grocery stores, you should know that. Is the market on campus open to the public or would U of R even want more people coming on campus to go to it? I’m no fan of tax breaks or the fact collegetown will be essentially tax free for 20 years as their small pilot agreement is used to pay off a loan and not contribute to the tax base. The city has a serious problem with lack of good grocery options. 2 miles away and in Brighton does not make that Tops close, is there even sidewalk connectivity between the city and the south Clinton tops? It sounds close unless you have to bike or walk to get your groceries. It also gives people around Plymouth/Elmwood/Genesee a close grocery option besides west av tops. This is the least offensive part of the project.

  2. “project qualifies because it will provide a product or service to the area that otherwise would not be available.”

    Isn’t that the very definition of a market opportunity? i.e. something that WOULDN’T require tax breaks to be successful?

  3. “Our lifestyle with the 24 hours wasn’t going right; the wives, the kids, so we decided to change it,” said Gitsis manager Billy Petrou.
    I read that as ‘we are one of two 24 hour places left in a City of 210,000 people and are tired of dealing with the riff raff that situation has brought into our establishment.’ Mark’s will now be the last and many people might not remember there was a Mark’s #2 on Lake/State by Upper Falls until the City shut it down for ‘points violations’.

    So Gitsis becomes one more victim of the failed practices started by Bill Johnson/Linda Kingsley, who used any excuse possible to shut down late night eateries around town thinking it would make violence prone people disappear into the night. All it did was send them to across town to Monroe Ave and the inner ring ‘burbs. Denny’s on Jefferson Rd, East Ridge Diner in Irondequoit, other places around the county are once again forced to deal with spillover caused by a City that functions with it’s head in the sand and ‘community activists’ who actively make excuses for bad behavior.

    I can hail a taxi and have it take me through a 24 hour drive through out west, about a 1/2 mile from the ocean, after a night out in a Monroe Ave type area. I am allowed to legally hail the cab there instead of being forced to call for one like here. The cab fare is 1/4 what it is here which I assume is because Hack licenses here are still overpriced and unavailable. The driver patiently sits in the drive through as the meter runs and I go home with grub. Oh and that taxi, it’s usually a Prius instead of a poorly repainted former Police car, NY City taxi or some other beater.

    As for the grocery store (the main story), nothing, absolutely nothing is heard more in this area than “I always take out of town visitors to Wegman’s” so who is to say ANY store isn’t a tourist destination if the local population deems it to be one? It’s a scam, we all know that. Keep voting in those corrupt Party politicians…………

  4. Finally…….. so that was a ‘final straw’? What were the other straws? Points related to fights, shootings, things Mayor Johnson’s son in law Dragon or whatever his name was did? Ya gotta tell the whole story, not just the ending. Kingsley pursued certain people and not others according to the desires or people in power. I watched it happen with Jesse Thompson who somehow got permits to expand Woody’s almost immediately after buying the place even though Brad Sluman tried for years to get those approvals. (I worked there for both of them and quit in disgust over Mr. Thompson’s business practices.) And I was in plenty of businesses in the city in my position with the fire dept. to know that certain people get a pass and others don’t. Full disclosure please.

  5. The loss of Gitsis as a 24/7 dinner is something to be talked about. Justaguy is right, the city has forced the closure of many dinners and its only concentrated the jerks of the city into the 2 and now 1 overnight dinner. Do they really think that forcing Marks 2, Nick Tahous, and others out of business would make these people just go home after the bar? They’ll just go to what’s left and the rest of who don’t fight or get into trouble just because we’ve had a couple beers are forced to tolerate them. It’s a little pathetic a city this size now has 1 non fast food overnight food option. Police the problem people not the establishments that can’t turn them away.

  6. April 17, 2013 at 1:34 am lellingw responds:

    The articles on judges in the Bronx and the subway are interesting. Both are examples of government working or not working. In Sweden there are high taxes but also a high quality of life. I don’t think the people facing the justice system in the Bronx can claim that either in court or in their lives. Greater poverty, greater crime. As for the delays in the court system, some of it is because lawyers make more money when they drag out the process. Soon I think there will be a court judge who decides that people in the Bronx have lost their right to a speedy trial and will order things changed but change could be a long time in coming.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>