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Albany action urged to strengthen state historic tax credit

Extend the state historic tax credit five more years.

Separate the state credit program from the federal credit program.

Don't delay use of the credits, and, make technical improvements to the state program to help rural areas.

Politicians, developers and preservationists urged these steps Thursday. They gathered at an industrial building being renovated by developer Rocco Termini through the use of the state and federal tax credits. The credits have helped restore and renovate dozens of Buffalo buildings over the past 15 years.

"Without a strong state historic tax credit, projects like mine simply can't happen," Termini said. "With the changes to the federal tax credit, it's more important than ever for New York State to step up and make the necessary changes to the program that will allow the Buffalo renaissance to continue."

Termini said 250 jobs are expected to be created at the industrial building at 155 Chandler St. for use in light manufacturing.

An archictectural rendering of Rocco Termini’s proposed redevelopment of the former Linde Air Manufacturing plant at 155 Chandler St. in Buffalo.

"These buildings cost so much to rehab, and the historic tax credits are a part of the stack of financing that we need to get them done," Termini said. "For developers, the most important thing is consistency. We need to know that when we start a project and count on tax credits that we will have them at the end of the project. If  we don't, it will really have a chilling effect on the City of Buffalo."

Among those on hand were Assemblyman Sean Ryan, State Sen. Chris Jacobs, State Sen. Tim Kennedy and Jessie Fisher, executive director of Preservation Buffalo Niagara. Developers Nick Sinatra and Jake Schneider joined Termini to lend their support.

Speakers at the press conference urged a legislative fix to ensure tax credits for projects underway are not deferred for three years, and the refundable component for five years. That's what's in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed state budget now. If adopted, it could harm the Northland Corridor Training Facility and PUSH's School 77 low-income senior housing project, while also discouraging new projects.

Jacobs urged Cuomo to take corrective action on the state historic tax credit. He said it has "probably been the most instrumental tool" that's spurred the rebirth being experienced by Buffalo.

The speakers also wants the governor to exempt historic preservation projects from the tax credit delay.

"Projects to rehab historic properties have been a game-changer in Western New York," said Ryan, D-Buffalo. "But we also know these are very complicated projects that sometimes take years in the planning stages. The developers need to know that at the end of the projects the state historic tax credit will be available.

"This can only work if our state budget takes its own action on the historic tax credit," Ryan said.

Assemblyman Sean Ryan urged changes to the state historic tax credit.

Making changes to the state historic tax credit are intended to compensate for changes to the new federal tax law, which altered the federal credit program by spreading the tax benefit over five years rather than one.

That is expected to erode the ability of the federal credit to help raise money for rehabilitation projects, and to also erode the value of the program.

Lowering the overall corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 22 percent is also expected to make fewer dollars available to invest in the program.

Fisher said over 6,000 high-paying construction jobs have been created in the past 10 years as a result of the historic tax credit, along with numerous permanent jobs in the businesses created.

"In some places, in downstate or New York City, perhaps the historic tax credit is a sweetener that helps make projects happen," Fisher said. "We know in Buffalo that without the historic tax credits the projects don't happen."

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