Want to know which businesses in your community are seeking tax breaks and how it might impact your tax bill, but can't make it to a weekday meeting of your local IDA?
Industrial development agencies, the local government agencies that grant tax incentives, are now required to livestream their board meetings and public hearings over the internet under a state law that took effect Jan. 1. They must also maintain an archive of recordings.
The livestreaming is aimed at giving people access to the proceedings who cannot attend in person. The meetings are held on weekdays, and in some cases, during work hours.
“We think this is a good opportunity for the public to learn more about the Suffolk IDA, how we operate and the vital role we play in creating jobs and fueling the economy,” said executive director Anthony J. Catapano.
Homeowners' groups who have been critical of IDAs praised the livestreaming requirement but said more must been done, including an end to tax breaks for housing projects.
"This is a first step, a little bitty reform on the road to real reform," said John Capobianco, a landscape gardener from Farmingdale who co-founded the advocacy group Citizens for IDA Reform.
"I believe IDAs are operating outside of their authority," he said last week. "IDAs shouldn't be giving millions of dollars in tax breaks to the wealthy developers of residential housing projects. Homeowners end up paying more in property taxes and the developers' profits are guaranteed," he said.
The Suffolk IDA livestreamed its first event on Jan. 21, a public hearing on additional tax incentives for the fast-growing drugmaker Contract Pharmacal Corp. in Hauppauge. The new service was used by 16 people, which is more than attended in person.
Besides the Suffolk IDA, livestreaming is new for the Nassau County IDA and IDAs in the City of Glen Cove and towns of Brookhaven, Hempstead and Islip. Two others, Riverhead and Babylon, began doing it before the state law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
Riverhead IDA executive director Tracy Stark-James said it has been livestreaming meeting “for about a year.”
The livestream and an archive of recordings will help “the public learn more about the positive benefits the IDA provides to both the tax base and employment within the local areas,” said Fred Parola, executive director of the Hempstead IDA.
Tax breaks awarded to the Green Acres Mall and the adjacent Green Acres Commons shopping plaza in 2014-15 by the Hempstead IDA sparked a controversy in Valley Stream that led State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) and Assemb. Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont) to author the livestreaming law.
Valley Stream resident Margaret Zydor said, "Shining a light on the IDAs will help residents understand how Payments in Lieu of Taxes impact our communities.” PILOTs are the partial taxes paid each year by businesses receiving IDA aid.
Most local IDAs are using youtube.com to broadcast their meetings and to archive them. Those who purchased new video equipment spent a couple thousand dollars, according to a Newsday survey of IDA officials.
In addition to board meetings and public hearings, the IDAs will livestream their committee meetings. A schedule of all meetings and how to access the livestream may be found on each agency’s website.
“I hope our website is user-friendly,” said Brookhaven executive director Lisa M.G. Mulligan. “I recommend people reference it to stay involved and learn about what we do.”
Babylon IDA's special project manager Brendan M. Murphy added, “On the occasion that residents have questions or comments about anything that occurs at an IDA meeting, we encourage them to contact us.”
TUNING IN TO IDAs
Industrial development agencies grant tax breaks to expanding businesses for 10, 20 and some times 40 years. IDA board meetings and public hearings are required to be livestreamed over the internet starting Jan. 1, 2020 under a new state law. Here's how to watch on Long Island:
NASSAU COUNTY IDA
Covers: North Hempstead and Long Beach
Meetings: Board meets the fourth Thursday of each month at 6:45 p.m. Notices may be found at nassauida.org
Public hearings: Notices may be found at nassauida.org and on Twitter at @IdaNassau
Access livestream and archive of recordings: https://nwsdy.li/nassauida
SUFFOLK COUNTY IDA
Covers: Huntington, Smithtown and the East End
Meetings: Board usually meets the fourth Thursday of each month at 12:30 p.m. Notices may be found at suffolkida.org/resources
Public hearings: Notices may be found at suffolkida.org/resources
Access livestream and archive of recordings: https://nwsdy.li/suffolkida
BABYLON TOWN IDA
Meetings: Board meets one Wednesday per month at 8 a.m. Notices may be found at babylonida.org/events/calendar
Public hearings: Notices may be found at babylonida.org/events/calendar
Access livestream and archive of recordings: nwsdy.li/babylon
BROOKHAVEN TOWN IDA
Meetings: Board usually meets the third Wednesday of each month at noontime. Notices may be found at https://brookhavenida.org/meetings
Public hearings: Notices may be found at brookhavenida.org/blog-category/news-events
Access livestream and archive of recordings: nwsdy.li/brooklive
GLEN COVE IDA
Meetings: Board meets the second and/or fourth Tuesdays of each month at 6 or 6:30 p.m. before Glen Cove City Council meetings. Notices may be found at nwsdy.li/glencovemeet
Public hearings: Notices may be found at https://nwsdy.li/glencovepublic.
Access livestream and archive of recordings: https://nwsdy.li/glencove
HEMPSTEAD TOWN IDA
Meetings: Board usually meets the second to last Thursday of each month 9 a.m. Notices may be found at tohida.org
Public hearings: Notices may be found at tohida.org
Access livestream and archive of recordings: tohida.org
ISLIP TOWN IDA
Meetings: Board meets at the beginning of the Islip Town Board meetings. Notices may be found at nwsdy.li/isliptownmeet
Public hearings: Notices may be found at https://nwsdy.li/islippublic
Access livestream and archive of recordings: https://nwsdy.li/isliptown
RIVERHEAD TOWN IDA
Meetings: Board meets on the first Monday of each month at 5 p.m. Notices may be found at riverheadida.org
Public hearings: Notices may be found at riverheadida.org
Access livestream and archive of recordings: https://nwsdy.li/riverhead