In the December 8, 2011 issue of the Westchester Guardian
Recently Charles Strome , New Rochelle City Manager, said on WVOX that the City was making money on the Weyman Avenue (Home Depot and Costco) site. With curiosity an inquiry was made to Strome asking for these figures. The answer was that in 2010 the sales tax, property tax and "amortized land sales proceedings" totaled $5.5 million while the debt service was $2.9 million creating a excess of $2.6 million in profits. Since it is well known that Home Depot had been given a certiorari reduction in taxes a few years ago, sales tax figures were requested. Now it was learned that in l998-9 the Weyman Avenue Development generated $4 million, but it was the highest recorded amount through 2010 which was given at $3.2 million. But don't these figures generate more questions than answers?
For starters, the original sales tax projections for this parcel according to Ferrandino and Associates for major stores (suggested as Home Depot, Fantasy Land and BJ's ) was projected at $1.6 million. (Sales tax was 1.5% at that time.) Without the extra 1% sales tax which was granted shortly thereafter, the City would only be generating $1.9 million in taxes instead of the current $3.2 million it received in 2010. Should the present sales tax of 2.5% be used for the original projections of $1.6 million, a valid comparison could be made because the sales tax would have been $2.6 million. Does a difference of $800,000 ($3.2 million minus $2.6 million) sound equitable when the inflation rate and increased consumer prices are considered?
While projections for the loss of sales tax from New Rochelle businesses such as Librett , Benders, locksmiths, paint stores and others with merchandise similar to these newly proposed stores were made by citizen groups before the Weyman Avenue project was approved, the eventual closing of these stores was not predicted by the City. However the loss of these businesses dramatically display the present need to reassess what has already transpired in New Rochelle. As an example, the empty lot on the corner of Main Street and Weyman Avenue owned by the City used to be occupied by Caruso Lumber. Schaefer foods used to be a car wash and Neptune Movers was part of eight dislocated businesses which were tax generating entities. Four of these tax generating entities were removed from the tax base to create a parking lot.
A list of 200 businesses that would be harmed by Home Depot's opening was articulated and circulated before this project was approved. It is not surprising to hear people lament that downtown New Rochelle now has empty stores, lack of parking and a change in the population that used to shop there. Driving down Main Street can take a long time. A fair comparison would be to factor in how much the Weyman Avenue site has contributed to this scenario.
Is it any wonder we hear constantly that the City should do away with IDA's and tax abatements . Even New Roc which was supposed to be a retail center has turned out to be mostly an entertainment complex with few sales tax generating businesses.
We need to objectively assess the Weyman Avenue development especially as any future development is proposed.
Former New York State Assemblyman Ron Tocci has stated his present disappointment with the city's focus on building residential rather than retail. The City in his view is paying for
the mistakes of the past, despite the abatements which came to an end. The cost of the infrastructure, road paving and upkeep is not factored into these reports. The developers in his view must supply these services. In the Weyman Avenue development according to Tocci , if the City "does not break down the sales tax by store, how can the City officials tell you Home Depot and Costco are generating more money than what the City puts into the area?" Many residents would like to know.