Friday, January 26, 2007

The Nassau County Empire Zone -- Day 365

A Year After Its Creation, Little to Show For Nassau County's First Empire Zone

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could write, chapter and verse, about the accomplishments to date of the Nassau County Empire Zone, this a little more than one year after its creation.

Unfortunately, that page -- or at least this one -- would be more or less blank, as Nassau County has little, if anything, substantive to show by way of Empire Zone initiative, elaborate redevelopment plans and highly touted tax advantages -- all designed to spur growth in jobs and business development -- notwithstanding.

On Long Island's oft forgotten south shore, "economic development" are apparently naughty words -- they can be spoken, but do not dare to act them out! And in Hempstead Town? Fuggetaboutit! The words might as well be multisyllabic, well beyond the ken of those who make the decisions (milk or cream?) at Planning & Economic Development.

Whatever became of the County's "strategic plan," let alone its "strategic vision for economic development?" We've all taken the "bus tours." Now we're left with the feeling that we've simply been taken for a ride.

Why, as far as we can see, we haven't so much as added a single cricket pitch to the landscape, let alone create an environment or infrastructure conducive to attracting either viable businesses or sustainable jobs.

Whatever became of the Empire Zone team -- those up and coming hot shots who were going to breathe new life into Nassau's aging economy? Sure, they've held a few poorly publicized rap sessions around town, but that's about it.

Like just about every other initiative -- particularly those that involve either pork or political self indulgence (and there should be plenty of that to go around in the Empire Zones) -- there's been lots of talk (come to think of it, not all that much talk), but little action.

--Albany speaks of property tax reform, and yet, the bottom line remains more or less unchanged for New York's besieged homeowners.

--Nassau borrows $100 million in bonds for parks, brownfields and the environment, with little evidence that it has spent more than a half pence from the earlier-approved $50 million dollar bond initiative.

--The Towns and villages talk of curbing illegal accessory apartments, improving the vistas of our downtowns, and revitalizing the very essence of our communities, but, for the most part, our Main Streets remain firmly frozen in the icy grasp of economic depression.

Even the talk, and talk alone, isn't cheap, disproving the old adage. The interest payments on those bonds alone is way up there, and how many millions did we squander sending out those paltry property tax rebate checks last fall?

Our elected officials, from then-Governor George Pataki, to State Senator Dean Skelos, to Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi were more than eager to get in the zone, and to tout its many prospective benefits.

And yet, here we are, another year older, and still falling for the same old lines, the same reconstituted photos, the same balderdash that our grandparents would have heard -- had they been listening two generations ago. Meanwhile, the elected have moved on to other promises, and perhaps more potentially fertile fields of pipe dreams.

Millions for "visioning," we suppose, but not a penny toward action!

"The more things change..." Actually, they don't. And, apparently, we don't, resigned to stay the course and embrace the status quo.

We say, its time to get our island moving forward again (moving forward, in our opinion, always a heck of alot better than standing still), Empire Zone or not. Anyone wishing to join us in getting on with it is more than welcome!

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