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Watchdog Group Reveals that Vornado Realty Set to Get $1.2B Tax Break in Penn Station Renovation Project

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Watchdog Group Reveals that Vornado Realty Set to Get $1.2B Tax Break in Penn Station Renovation Project

Edited by: TJVNews.com

When big companies are in line to get tax breaks from politicians, this gives reason to raise an eyebrow or two.

According to a recently published report in the New York Post, Governor Kathy Hochul has plans to overhaul New York City’s Penn Station, but now a government watchdog group known as Reinvent Albany released a report indicating the governor is “pushing a sweetheart deal with Vornado Realty Trust – led by billionaire chairman Steven Roth.”

Vornado Realty Trust just happens to be one of Hochul’s mega donors and is set to receive $1.2 billion in tax breaks. The Post reported that Reinvent Albany has said that the Hochul plan for Penn Station might be billions short of the $7.5 to $10 billion necessary for such a massive renovation plan.

The watchdog group report comes just as New York legislators are imploring Hochul to restore oversight powers for mega-projects that were voided by former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The Post reported that the watchdog group report said that “the state has not made public the necessary information to determine if the [financing plan] can be successful, including projections of costs and revenues.”

The Post reported that “Hochul’s plan to overhaul and expand Penn Station, along with helping to fund new tunnels across the Hudson River, would give Vornado tax breaks to construct new buildings around the transit hub. Vornado’s discounted tax payments would hypothetically pay off debt the state would take on to finance the station work.”

Overseeing the project on Hochul’s behalf is the Empire State Development, however, the Post reported that as of yet they have not provided details that the scheme to finance the Penn Station project would actually be successful.

Last month, the head of the ESD, Hope Knight told legislators when queried as to whether New York taxpayers might be paying billions in future debt that, “If there were, you know, some difficulty with servicing debt, like I said, we would look towards some of these interest support tools to provide those payments.”

The Post reported that campaign finance records reveal that weeks after assuming the role of New York Governor, Roth donated $69,700 to Hochul’s campaign. Hochul took over the mantle of leadership when former Gov. Andrew Cuomo tendered his resignation after a series of sexual harassment scandals plagued his administration.

In an e-mail, Hazel Crampton-Hays, a spokeswoman for Hochul said, “We reject any implication that political donations have influence on government decisions.”

The Post also reported that New York legislators are asking that Hochul to sign into law legislation that would give them more power on the Public Authorities Control Board, a state body that thwarted efforts by Cuomo to help Amazon build a satellite HQ in Queens in 2019.

When asked by a reporter on Tuesday, Hochul did not commit to restoring such power to lawmakers. “I’ll simply point out they passed a law that everyone’s complaining about” she said, as was reported by the Post.

Despite the damning derails that were highlighted in the Reinvent Albany report, the ESD has scheduled a July 30 vote that could move the project forward, according to the Post report.

In an e-mail to the paper, Matthew Gorton, an ESD spokesman said, “Since ESD was refused a copy of the report prior to its release, it’s difficult to comment on its accuracy. It’s disappointing that an organization that considers itself a citizens’ watchdog would prefer Penn Station remain a junkyard, denying New Yorkers the significant affordable housing, open space and desperately needed transit improvements this plan provides.”

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