Council wants payment
Albany convention center lands again in tax dispute
Published on 5/21/2013 by the Times Union written by by Jordan Carleo-Evangelist
Albany: City lawmakers on Monday again voted to push the Albany Convention Center Authority to pay the city, county and schools in lieu of nearly $500,000 in lost taxes on the land earmarked for a downtown convention center that appears increasingly less likely to be built.
The resolution, which echoes one passed in 2010 and ignored, is nonbinding on the state-created construction authority. But it may signal increasing impatience by the Common Council with the loss of the tax revenue on 50-some parcels as the project idles.
Mayor Jerry Jennings said work continues to draft a scaled-down plan, seemingly focused around State Street below the Capitol, incorporating existing meeting space in the county-owned Times Union Center arena and Empire State Plaza.
That leaves open what will become of the nearly six acres off Broadway targeted — and largely acquired — by the authority for a much larger, $220 million facility.
Monday's resolution was sponsored by 1st Ward Councilman Dominick Calsolaro, a longtime opponent of the convention center project, and passed 14-1.
"We have exempt land that is sitting and sitting and sitting, and the taxpayers of the city of Albany are paying for it," 11th Ward Councilman Anton Konev said.
The only opposition came from 2nd Ward Councilman Lester Freeman, who co-sponsored the 2010 resolution but called Monday's incarnation "rogue legislation" on which city officials should have been consulted.
Gavin Donohue, chairman of the authority's board, said the panel has no immediate plans to begin a so-called PILOT agreement, calling it too soon to broach the topic as the authority continues to map out an alternate plan.
"It's something that we'll take under advisement," Donohue said. "We understand it's our obligation to be good citizens of Albany, and we intend to do that at an appropriate time."
Jennings, too, said it's "premature" to talk about a PILOT until the fate of the project is clear."
"I think we're better off seeing how things play out," he said.
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