Money in the Bank
Bellone, Gregory and Cilmi Applaud County Land Bank’s First Infusion of Funding
Initial properties eligible for funding could result in collecting up to $7 million in back taxes
(Hauppauge, NY-October 29, 2013)—Today, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislators Majority Leader DuWayne Gregory (D-District 15) and Tom Cilmi (R-District 10) are pleased to announce that the Suffolk County Land Bank received its first influx of funding in the amount of $675,000. The monies represent a major step forward in the County’s efforts to begin remediating more than 133 blighted and abandoned properties that represent a total of 265.9 acres and more than $35 million in cumulative uncollected tax revenue.
The grant represents the first round of competitive funding awards under the New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative. This two-year, $20 million program provides funds from last year’s National Mortgage Settlement with the nation’s largest banks to help communities rebuild and restore neighborhoods hit hard by the housing crisis.
“Thanks to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the provision of these new funds will represent another important step in the Suffolk County Land Bank’s continued efforts to remediate environmental damages in our communities, restore vacant properties, and rebuild our economic tax base. We are confident that the Land Bank will serve as a smart tool to help redevelop Suffolk County and to help build even stronger local neighborhoods,” stated County Executive Bellone.
Majority Leader Gregory applauded the Attorney General’s leadership on the initiative and talked about how excited he was that the process will now start moving forward.
“My thanks to Attorney General Schneiderman’s office for securing these funds. Two years ago, when I drafted the bill to create a vehicle to salvage the abandoned and polluted properties littering our towns, I knew it would take a long term commitment from not only the County, but other stake holders as well,” said Gregory. “This grant will finally allow us to begin that essential process of reclaiming the worst of these blighted parcels, and in the process, also revitalize neighborhoods around them.”
"So many of the challenges we face require creative, collaborative solutions,” said Legislator Tom Cilmi. “The Suffolk County Land Bank is a great example of such an effort. Thanks to our perseverance on this issue, and the coordination between the Legislature, the County Executive, as well as our partners at the federal and state levels, we can finally begin to clean up these contaminated properties, put them back on the tax rolls, and return millions in unpaid taxes to the taxpayers."
In 2011, Gregory drafted the law directing the County to study the viability of creating such a vehicle. County Executive Bellone followed with legislation creating the Suffolk County Land Bank Corporation in February 2013 as a not-for-profit entity which gives the County discretion to acquire, dispose of at auction, or redevelop tax foreclosed properties, including brownfield sites previously unsuitable for acquisition.
The Suffolk County Land Bank Corporation was created specifically to address neighborhood revitalization and tax base development through environmental remediation.
Long Island is one of the hardest hit regions to be impacted by the foreclosure crisis. Subsequently, loss of tax revenue by vacant, underutilized properties has added additional challenges to neighborhood stabilization, further straining resources of local government across the region. A high number of underutilized brownfield sites are located in the communities most impacted by foreclosure. Nearly 40% of the sites under consideration by the Suffolk County Land Bank are located in the top 20% of zip codes hardest hit by foreclosures.
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) investment will enable Suffolk County Land Bank Corporation to:
Ø Support Environmental Phase I environmental site assessments and Phase II subsoil and geotechnical investigations on 18 suspected “brownfield” sites in Suffolk County. These sites are located in neighborhoods within Suffolk County that were heavily impacted by the foreclosure crisis.
Ø Support the marketing, legal analysis and planning for the eventual resale of those sites to responsible community development partners for full remediation and redevelopment.
The initial properties highlighted have accumulated tax arrears of approximately $7 million. Once these properties are evaluated and deemed appropriate for redevelopment, the County will then have the opportunity to recoup outstanding taxes and return properties back to the Suffolk County tax rolls.
The OAG investment provides a critical funding source to drive the transformation of vacant, abandoned, and blighted properties into vibrant, productive, and tax-paying use consistent with the strategy outlined by the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council. Additionally, the OAG investment will complement on-going Superstorm Sandy relief efforts and leverage both recovery and committed EPA funding.