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Lawmakers, developers urge Cuomo to renew historic tax credit

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Michael Mroziak, WBFO
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State lawmakers, business and real estate developers as well as local preservation advocates gathered Thursday to send a united message to Governor Andrew Cuomo: do not remove from the budget a tax incentive they say is critical to continued economic redevelopment.

The state's Historic Tax Credit gives incentives to businesses and developers who refit vintage buildings for new opportunities. Supporters of the credit gathered inside a brick structure on Chandler Street in Buffalo's Black Rock section, where workers were busy preparing the building for its forthcoming occupant, a company that will manufacture what is described as gas-permeable ceramic tape for use in computers and storage batteries.

This project is one of many that, local state representatives say, are possible through the tax credit. That credit would be put on hold under the governor's current budget proposal until 2021. 

"We have seen in the last number of years some real momentum, a real feeling of rebirth in this area. The historic tax credit, the state component of the historic tax credit, has been probably the most instrumental tool that has spurred that," said State Senator Chris Jacobs.

Jacobs, along with fellow Senator Tim Kennedy and Assemblyman Sean Ryan, are urging Cuomo to not only preserve the tax credit but also immediately re-authorize it. Currently, it's scheduled to sunset next year, at which time the governor would normally decide whether to renew the credit. 

Meanwhile in Washington, the federal government's version of the historic tax credit will now be spread over five years, as the result of recently passed tax code reform. Critics of that move say it lessens the credit's overall value and may prevent many projects from happening.

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Credit Office of State Senator Chris Jacobs.
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State Senator Chris Jacobs, in a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo, urges the latter not to suspend the state's Historic Tax Credit.

"We need to decouple the New York State tax program from the federal program," said Ryan. "The federal program is now spreading these benefits out over five years. We need to have a separate New York law that keeps it at one year."

Jesse Fisher of Preservation Buffalo Niagara noted that the state's tax credit has been important not only to projects in Buffalo but to other smaller communities throughout Western New York.

"The city of Olean, the City of Jamestown, the City of Corning, all of these places are impacted positively by the tax credit," Fisher said. "There are steps we can do in this year's budget to actually make sure that more projects happen in places like that. We need to not just extend the tax credit, we need to make some technical changes that make those tax credits work for our smaller projects in our smaller communities."

Developers say older buildings, although expensive to rehabilitate, are proving to be a key part of the region's economic renaissance because it's the uniqueness and charm of these buildings that are actually attracting new businesses and young people.

"The new millennials and the new companies want to be in cool space," said local developer Rocco Termini. "They want to be in Googlized space. They want to be in a space where they can do things that they can't in other buildings."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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