January 5, 2006
After years of urging the New York State Legislature to approve an Empire Zone in Nassau County, the Nassau County Majority Legislators, with the support of Nassau County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi, local businesses, government leaders and community advocates have finally secured an Empire Zone that will include Bethpage, Glen Cove, Elmont, Inwood, New Cassel, Roosevelt, Uniondale, West Hempstead and the villages of Freeport and Hempstead. This step will establish "tax-free" business sites to help spark new private sector investment, job creation and economic expansion for underserved and, in many cases, minority communities.
“This is an investment in our future. The county desperately needs this Empire Zone to foster future growth, expand its tax base, attract new businesses, and create jobs” Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs said. “It is wonderful that we will finally have an Empire Zone. Since 1987, the state has designated 72 Empire Zones--including three in Suffolk County, 10 in New York City and two in Westchester County--but, until now, Nassau County has never had an Empire Zone.”
The Majority Legislators sought Empire Zone designation for six non-contiguous areas that meet the criteria for such zones set forth in the General Municipal Law. They are the Town of Hempstead--for the communities of Bethpage (at the site of the old Grumman plant), Elmont, Inwood, Roosevelt, Uniondale and West Hempstead--New Cassel, Bethpage, the City of Glen Cove, the Village of Hempstead and the Village of Freeport.
The Empire Zone designation will attract community investment, which is a key step towards the revitalization of the County’s many local downtown areas. In addition, those businesses that participate and invest in an Empire Zone are eligible for sales tax exemption, real property and business tax credits. The purpose of the Empire Zones Program is to give companies increasing their employment opportunity to operate on an almost “tax-free” basis for up to 10 years in designated areas of the state, with additional savings available on a declining basis in years 11 through 15.
While Nassau County is known as the home to an affluent, highly-taxed, well-educated population, as well as many mid-size corporations and regional finance, insurance and real estate firms, it also has several communities that have had an influx of poor, minority and immigrant groups who live in segregated areas and are deprived of many economic, educational and social opportunities. These communities are largely located in and around the County's older downtown areas, where often the infrastructure is not sufficient to support the demanding needs of the local residents and businesses. Compounding the problems of economic and physical despair in its low income areas, Nassau County has been impacted negatively by the downsizing of military installations, and a loss of defense contracts from the local defense industry, which resulted in decreased manufacturing needs and industry mergers, taking many jobs away from the County.The areas for the proposed zones throughout the county are largely located in the County's economically depressed areas where infrastructure cannot support the needs of the local businesses and residents, public transportation is lacking and environmental justice issues are rampant. The focus is on job retention and attraction, and these themes will continue as the basis for business expansion and employment generation in the county's economic development zone.