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Letter: Victory Through Vigilance

Over the past several weeks, the acronym PILOT has caught the attention of community residents, and caused them to band together in solidarity of resistance once it was learned what the motive was all about.

Embroiled in this controversy are The Bristal Assisted Living Facility located in Westbury and the Nassau County IDA (Industrial Development Agency); the former sought an extension of its PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) privileges from the latter, the quasi-governmental agency that has the authority to grant it.

The application process appeared to have adopted an “under the radar” approach, and might have succeeded had it not been noticed, almost by chance, by Westbury’s Mayor Peter Cavallaro, who took steps to notify the school district and other taxing entities that would have lost millions in terms of tax dollars that The Bristal would have been exempted from paying. The egregious aspect of the application that really got the ire of the public is the fact that this would have been the second time around for The Bristal, having enjoyed more than 10 years of tax holiday under the first agreement, and had this been approved, it would amount to more than 20 years of tax abatement without any commensurate benefits to the community. The general public and the elected officials would have none of it, and sprang into action.

Not since the water bill crisis of 2001, where community residents rallied against the exorbitant increase in their water bill, (some as high as a 200 percent increase) have I seen such a united push back from the community and such unflinching resolve from our elected officials in uniting around a common cause. In the end it proved too much for IDA; public sentiments were too much against this deal, while words like greed and avarice were used with impunity to express such thoughts. The IDA did the right thing in not pressing forward with the issue.

But PILOT is not necessarily a bad thing for any community, if applied responsibly; the Yes We Can Community Center in New Cassel bears testament to this. The community center was part of a negotiated PILOT agreement approved by the IDA in 2004 whereby LIPA entered into an arrangement with Neptune Regional Transmission System to bring electricity from New Jersey via underwater direct current line to a converter station in New Cassel. The agreement also allowed for Westbury school district to receive funding through the course of the 20-year contract. Said then Councilman Robert Troiano at the time, “The community center will put an exclamation point on the already exciting revitalization efforts occurring throughout the Westbury/New Cassel area.”

Politicians are often given a bad rap for any number of reasons, and sometimes there is reluctance to extend kudos (or give them their “props”) when they are deserved. But this is one time when our local elected officials really stepped up to the plate, in rallying the public, and kept us in the loop all the way. Kudos are therefore in order for our County Legislator Robert Troiano, Mayor Peter Cavallaro and Councilwoman Viviana Russell for a job well done.

Chester McGibbon

Westbury Resident