Friday, March 22, 2013

Missing the (Park) Point

One of the many "Tax Park Point" signs around town.
New Paltz, whose residents positively beam when they can collaborate on a common goal, but at the same time are often so eager to fight that they will dress each other down for agreeing poorly, is missing a golden opportunity to bridge a longstanding gulf.

Signs protesting the Park Point project cropped up seemingly overnight this past weekend, and after reading so much about my neighbors' feelings online and in the paper, I was interested in knowing what it was all about.

The website on the signs,, points to a petition to the IDA asking that this mammoth project not be given a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) instead of paying based on its assessed value.  Woodland Pond, the senior community which was built in a wetland and pays pennies on the dollar of its assessed value, and yet continually cries poverty, is a recipient of a PILOT agreement, which is typically awarded with the reasoning that whatever project is being built will bring in enough jobs and economic activity that the deep discount will offset the loss in property taxes.

I've had a number of people point out that the petition contains grammatical and factual errors and misleading information, and some of them won't sign because of that.  For example, taxing this project won't actually add a million dollars to the school's budget.  School districts and other property-tax authorities decide how much money they need, and then it get divided among us landowners based on how much the town assessor says our homes and businesses are worth.  So an extra million would save the rest of us a few bucks.

It's the savings that are key, here, because the petition is being championed by (gasp!) local landlords.  Property taxes are a big deal for landlords, because they are harder to get around paying.  Income tax deductions are plentiful, and the unscrupulous landlord who collects rent in cash and doesn't report it saves even more, although I imagine at a much higher risk of being audited.

So the group of people which actively opposed the middle school renovations are now arguing in favor of the children.  It bothers some people, but I say, "Who cares what their motives are?"

New Paltz is a community of politically-active intellectuals.  That means that no good deed goes unpunished, because no matter the idea, someone and their friends will think it's terrible and fight you on it, tooth and nail.  Republicans and Democrats.  Village and town.  Landlords and homeowners.  Students and residents.  Farmers and cowhands.  We are always drawing lines and looking for things to fight about, and for me at least, it's tiring.

In fact, I'm getting tired right now just thinking about how I will get taken down a peg for this view.

What matters is that, at this point in time, the bulk of concerned citizens of New Paltz don't believe that Park Point deserves a PILOT.  It's an opportunity for collaboration, but anti-Park Point activist told me, "That ship has sailed."  I urge that friend, and others who are hesitant to work with landlords, to take a step back and consider whether your grudges are what's important today.

And to the landlords themselves, particularly those who wrote the petition, please consider the legitimate criticisms of its wording for what they are:  a desire to ensure success.  Misspellings and poor grammar always undermine the message, especially in a community built around the ivory tower.  Misrepresentations, intentional or not, will both turn off the critical thinkers who might otherwise offer support, and be used by the true opposition against you.

As it happens, I don't believe that the landlords' real concern, that of new competition undermining their ability to make a living, has much merit.  Rest assured, the college will continue to add far more students than it can ever house, even if all of New Paltz is eventually shoved into its poured concrete maw with scrabbling glass pyramids of greed.  In truth, I think building it at all is a terrible idea for this community.

But on the question of taxation, I wholeheartedly agree:  if this abomination is to be built, let it be taxed like the rest of the land in New Paltz.  Fair is fair.

1 comment:

Erica said...

This was really helpful, I haven't had a real handle on the Park Point conversations and your post here helped a lot. Thank you!