The 1892 European-inspired Market Arcade, which was purchased and renovated by developer Nick Sinatra in 2013, has been called a "show stopper" and "real Buffalo success story." (Just look at these photos of what's been called "the most ornamental commercial building downtown.")
But could it and some future redevelopment projects in Buffalo be in trouble?
Sinatra's companies, whose past or pending redevelopment projects include McCarley Gardens, Phoenix Brewery Apartments, Fenton Village apartments, and the former Women's and Children's Hospital site, owes the City of Buffalo and Erie County a total of $822,716 in back taxes for properties across Western New York, The News' Jonathan D. Epstein and Mark Sommer reported Thursday.
Sinatra contacted The News on Friday to say that he had paid all of his city taxes and that the remaining taxes would be paid by the end of next week.
Since the story was published, readers have asked about late fees and tax credits, so we brought your questions to Epstein:
Question from @mikejniemiec1/Twitter: Will Nick Sinatra be paying the over $800,000 in taxes he owes on time? When is he going to pay?
Epstein: Sinatra said he would be paying all of the taxes within a few days. He did not give a specific date. The payments won't be "on time," since they are all already late.
Question from Karen Holloway: Is there a way to ignore late fees and penalties?
Epstein: No, they are required by law. Sinatra could continue to ignore them, but they would continue to build, and if the debts are not paid, the city or county can eventually foreclose. The interest accrues at 18 percent per year. However, Sinatra has indicated he has no intention of allowing any of the properties to be taken in foreclosure, and he has said he will pay all late fees and penalties.
Question from @db716/Twitter: How does the city and county's actions compare to the actions they typically take when a homeowner fails to pay property taxes?
Epstein: They are the same process and the same fees and charges. The foreclosure process in New York takes a long time.
Question from @BroneyJah/Twitter: What would happen if tenants in Sinatra's properties don't pay their rent? Do Sinatra's tenants have the option of paying rent when they want based on "business decisions"?
Epstein: This is somewhat of a speculative question, but presumably, tenants who do not pay their rent would receive late notices and accrue late fees. Eventually, they could be evicted by law. The lease would detail the specifics.
Question from Robin Gilbert: Would this prevent Sinatra's companies from bidding or getting new projects?
Epstein: That depends on city, county or other municipal procedures for such bidding. Politicians have said that should be the case, but that's posturing, not government.
Question from Carolyn Peszko Flynn and @db716/Twitter: How much publicly subsidized money (tax credits, abatement or otherwise) have he and his companies received from various levels of government?
Epstein: We have not tallied all of it, but it could run to millions of dollars or even tens of millions of dollars, especially if you include not only tax breaks from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency and the City of Buffalo, but also state and federal historic tax credits, brownfield tax credits and similar programs available to all developers.
Question from @MikeGluck/Twitter and @theturk47/Twitter: Why weren't politics addressed more openly in the article? Sinatra is a Republican donor, right? (Supports Pence, Collins, etc.) Could that be behind some of the criticism from Democrat Mark Poloncarz?
Epstein: Sinatra is a Republican donor and has also been active in Republican circles for many years. Rep. Chris Collins is also one of Sinatra's investors. However, we do not have any evidence that politics played a role in the county executive's comments.
Question from Bill Dreitlein: Is Nick Sinatra related to "Chairman of the Board" Frank Sinatra?
Epstein: Not that we know of.