02/10/15 1:00pm
02/10/2015 1:00 PM
Blackman Plumbing on West Main Street is looking to expand. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Blackman Plumbing on West Main Street is looking to expand. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

After plans to expand its Riverhead location in 2010 stalled, Blackman Plumbing on West Main Street is once again looking to build a new 40,000-square-foot building.

On Monday, two Blackman representatives appeared before the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency to describe the project and schedule a public hearing sometime in the next two months.  (more…)

12/20/13 6:59am

IDAscreenThe work of the Industrial Development Agency came under intense scrutiny during last year’s elections. The IDA, its executive director and board members were criticized in these pages and elsewhere for giving out scores of property tax abatements to big box stores and international corporations that didn’t need such help — and the breaks were putting an undue burden on the rest of us. Or so the narrative went.

We now find the narrative not to be entirely true. At this time, there are no big box stores in Riverhead Town that receive tax abatements, we report this week. And although names like Hilton and Marriott adorn two projects that received some form of IDA benefits, the hotels themselves are owned by a local businessman who makes a strong case for the economic benefits they bring to town in the form of visitors’ spending time here, and therefore money. When it was built, Tanger Outlets received IDA assistance on sales tax only, and not property tax breaks, and it’s now the town’s highest taxpayer — contributing more than $4 million a year.

To sum up staff writer Tim Gannon’s reporting, the total amount of taxes that will be “lost” in 2014 comes in at $1.68 million.


That seems like a small price to pay for bringing economic development and jobs to the Enterprise Park at Calverton, helping establish recreational opportunities in the form of a bowling alley on Route 25 and rebuilding a downtown with a hotel and aquarium, a renovated theater and dozens of new stores and apartments. Consider also that, according to IDA executive director Tracy Stark-James, the total assessed value of the 18 properties currently receiving property tax breaks in town was about $2.4 million before the IDA incentives were granted.

Those assessed values now total $18.3 million. One day those taxes will be paid in full.

These are long-term investments, not designed to be the easiest of pills for taxpayers to swallow now.

And it seems the IDA board is picking worthy projects to support.

There is room for improvements, especially when it comes to transparency on the IDA’s website, riverheadida.org, which offers no detailed information as to who is getting property breaks in town, for how much and when those breaks are scheduled to fall off. This is information that should be at everyone’s fingertips. The IDA should take care to update these numbers annually; that doesn’t sound as if it should be so hard. As of now, the site’s “projects” page features only a Google map of Riverhead.

The last IDA budget uploaded to the website is from 2012 and the “corrective measures” from a 2012 financial audit are nowhere to be found.

Overall, the IDA appears to be fulfilling its mission of attracting businesses and helping existing businesses expand. But these board members are deciding where taxpayer money is being directed and the decisions they’re making need to be clear and accessible to the public.

Here’s a simple New Year’s resolution for them: Update the site.

11/05/13 7:48am
11/05/2013 7:48 AM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | (L-R) IDA executive director Tracy Stark-James takes notes as Skydive Long Island owner Ray Maynard and Barbara Schiano speak to the IDA board Monday night.

Plans to build a two-story tall indoor skydiving tunnel are a little bit closer to taking flight.

The proposal — a new building to house the unique attraction at Skydive Long Island in the Enterprise Park at Calverton — will be subject to a public hearing over requested tax incentives in December, after members of Riverhead’s Industrial Development Agency expressed support for the proposal, with one member of the board calling the plan a “home run.”

COURTESY PHOTO | People skydiving in a vertical wind tunnel.

COURTESY PHOTO | People skydiving in a wind tunnel.

“That’s a really great project,” said IDA executive director Tracy Stark-James at the board’s meeting Monday night in Riverhead Town Hall. “It’s truly a regional draw.”

Skydive Long Island owner Ray Maynard and Barbara Schiano, his wife, told the board their planned attraction would not only allow skydivers to practice jumps in a safe environment, but would also draw tens of thousands more into town during the typical skydiving off-season to experience the indoor wind tunnel — without having to get in a plane.

“There are many people who just go to these indoor wind tunnels to experience freefall who never go skydiving,” Ms. Schiano said.

Skydive Long Island would build a four-story tall building to house the 18-feet high, 14.5-foot wide vertical wind tunnel, which would use giant fans to lift customers into the air.

“It’s going to bring a lot more people to the town,” Mr. Maynard said, adding that the nearest indoor skydiving attractions were in New Hampshire and North Carolina.

Mr. Maynard also said that, while tunnels are used by professional skydivers to train, the general public could buy time inside the tunnel with an instructor in 2-minute blocks. Up to six experienced skydivers could use the tunnel for practicing formation diving.

The project — estimated to cost between $4.5 million to $5 million — would also feature glass running windows along the side of the tunnel, allowing onlookers to see in. It would take up to a year to build the structure, Ms. Schiano said.

Skydive Long Island — which has been in operation out of Calverton since 2000 — is asking for three types of tax incentives: a sales tax exemption, a mortgage tax exemption and a deal on its real property taxes, Ms. Stark-James said.

The sales tax exemption would apply to all construction material purchases, from building supplies to lighting fixtures for the new building.

Skydive Long Island has already secured partial funding for the project through the U.S. Small Business Administraiton, which doesn’t require mortgage tax to be paid. The local mortgage recording tax exemption would apply to the remainder not covered under the SBA and would eliminate the usual 1.05 percent tax.

The final incentive is to reduce the real property tax assessment, Ms. Stark-James said. The IDA’s standard property tax abatement reduces the assessed value of the new additions to the property by 50 percent; the assessed value of the property excluding the new additions is unaffected, meaning taxes on the existing property wouldn’t change. The property would gain an additional 5 percent on its assessed value each year until it hit the full 100 percent of its value, Ms. Stark-James said.

For example, if a property were worth $50,000 and another $10,000 in assessed value were added, the property’s abated assessed value would be $55,000 in the first year of the abatement, increasing by 5 percent each year until it reached the full $60,000.

While the 50 percent initial abatement is the typical IDA offer, Ms. Stark-James said Skydive Long Island was planning to request more of an abatement from the IDA. While board members didn’t reveal whether they would support the incentives, all expressed admiration for Mr. Maynard, a longtime local business owner.

The proposed incentives will be open for public comment at the IDA’s next meeting in early December. In the meantime, Ms. Schiano said the company is working on getting the necessary zoning permits to build the new attraction.

“This is going to be another iconic attraction [for Riverhead],” she said. “There’s nothing like it in the area.”

[email protected]