Businessman Nick Sinatra is once again in the firing line of left-leaning advocacy groups, as the prominent developer was late for the second time this year on several hundred thousand dollars in city taxes for a host of his Buffalo properties.
On Monday, the city's online property tax records database showed Sinatra, one of the city's largest and fastest-growing property developers, owed $297,200 on at least 74 properties in Buffalo, on bills that were due July 31.
The taxes are now paid in full, the city's commissioner of assessment and taxation, Martin Kennedy, said Tuesday. City spokesman Michael DeGeorge said Sinatra made many of the payments on Monday, so they hadn't been reflected yet in the computer system.
"We have reached out to the City of Buffalo Assessment and Taxation Department and confirmed all properties owned by Sinatra and Co. Real Estate, or one of its affiliates, are current on property tax payments," said Amy Nagy, director of development for Sinatra's real estate firm.
In April, Sinatra was delinquent on more than $822,000 in Buffalo and Erie County property taxes on more than 79 properties – with some debts dating back more than two years. Sinatra said he had made a "business decision" not to pay the taxes because he was contesting the city's assessments and tax levies, which he found excessive. He paid more than $1.2 million to bring his accounts current.
Sinatra defended his company's actions, noting the "important role we are playing in Buffalo's ongoing resurgence" by employing hundreds, supporting local vendors and investing millions of dollars into the city. In the process, he said, his company had "put properties back on the city tax rolls" and "breathed new life" into properties that it then paid millions of dollars in taxes on.
"The taxpayer is much better off with Sinatra and Company’s investments over the last eight years in our city," Sinatra said in April.
The Public Accountability Initiative — an advocacy organization that Sinatra dismisses as politically motivated because he is active in Republican circles — has been tracking Sinatra over the back taxes. The group publicized the taxes owed in April and again last week. In April, Sinatra called the group's reports "nothing more than a smear campaign" and said it was singling him out because of his politics.
The group, which says it monitors the "one percent," has taken aim recently at issues related to real estate developers, taxes and affordable housing. It has been criticized by developers and businesses as extremist.
The amounts owed as of Monday ranged from over $29,385 on the Harvard Place Apartments at 70 Harvard Place to as little as $13.53 on 203 Maple in the Fruit Belt. The delinquent properties included the former Pierce-Arrow factory on Great Arrow Avenue that Sinatra is redeveloping into apartments and several properties that will be part of Sinatra's joint venture with Ellicott Development Co. to convert the former Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo site into the new Elmwood Crossing project.
The Public Accountability group questioned why the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. — a state agency — would name Sinatra as the designated developer of two parcels at Canalside on Aug. 20 at the same time that he owed so much in taxes. Sinatra plans to spend $21 million to erect two mixed-use buildings with mixed-income residential apartments and several restaurants.