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Letter: Gates Circle blighted? Tax break tactic is illogical

The idea of calling the most-advantaged area in Buffalo “blighted” (yes, on Delaware, at Gates Circle, the city has done that, the state law they want to use to jump-start Gates development requires blight!) seems to me an example of city development officials who mostly bring to the table their ability to find creative ways to get money out the door.

Just like for regular welfare, I am for what some people call corporate welfare when particular tough situations and economic and social challenges call for it. One of the great strengths and achievements of our country has been a willingness to marshal and wisely use public resources for societal needs that are difficult to meet otherwise.

But the property now in line for a big local tax dollar boost is in a great neighborhood, and on our Champs Elysees, our Pennsylvania and Fifth avenues all combined.

Last week at Buffalo Common Council an attorney argued that the city’s giving up property tax proceeds on a cumulative 20-year total of over $1 billion in new built real estate annual values at Gates Circle is not a big deal.

The council was being asked to allow a tax moratorium on about $150 million in promised new construction on the vacant 6.7-acre TM Montante property at Gates Circle, where Millard Fillmore Hospital once stood. Over the 20 years it was to run, this works out to be more than the real Buffalo Billion, but going the wrong way for Buffalo.

It would add up to serious money in non-collected taxes.

What was most remarkable to me is that, in the Common Council chamber, where now almost 100 years of tough decisions have been made, many of them financial, the current city administration had come forward with this sort of easy bonus idea for TM Montante interests at Gates.

And the Buffalo council didn’t seem negative about the removal of a 20-year, billion-dollar total from Buffalo’s tax base to fund it.

It’s a lot of money to dump out the door among all those nice houses just because someone sees a blank and inactive place at Gates.

James Smith


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