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Albany Common Councilors To SUNY Poly: Pay Up

Two Albany Common Councilors are calling on SUNY Polytechnic Institute's non-profit development arm to honor what they say was an agreement to pay the city $1 million.

10th Ward Councilor Owusu Anane and 12th Ward Councilor Michael O'Brien are demanding payment of a past due $1 million in lieu of taxes under a 2015 agreement. "Based on Fuller Road Management use of city and emergency services at city negotiations with several large non-profits, Fuller Road Management promised to contribute $500,000 annually to Albany's annual budget, beginning from 2015 to 2017, which would have made a total of $1.5 million. So far, Albany has received $500,000, with the remaining $1 million outstanding. Last week, The Times Union reported that Fuller Road Management Corporation, which owns most of the buildings on SUNY Poly Institute's Albany campus, had a larger than expected surplus of $3.7 million."

Anane adds that while "billions of dollars of activity" goes on at the non-profit SUNY Polytechnic Campus, its tax-exempt status hurts Albany.   "Economic development on Fuller Road Management property, land, is upwards of $900 million.  And also its should be noted that other tax-exempt entities such as Albany County Times Union [Center] and the Port of Albany, they all pay taxes on various private commercial entities."

Fuller Road Management did not return requests for comment.

John Kaehny is the Executive Director of Reinvent Albany, which advocates for open government and other reforms. He says forget the low PILOT; he thinks Fuller Road Management should be paying "full value."    "Otherwise it amounts to the people of Albany, the city of Albany, the Albany County taxpayers, subsidizing Fuller Road, which is a quasi-public authority that's already received billions and billions of dollars to build these very expensive high-tech factories. And that's flat-out wrong, because Albany should be the main beneficiary, and Albany taxpayers the main beneficiary, not the ones footing the bill for subsidizing a high-tech corporation."

Kaehny says changing the current model is up to a higher power.    "It would take action by the governor and the state legislature to instruct Fuller Road, which is controlled by Empire State Development and functionally is part of state government, so they would have to be told to start paying their fair share of property taxes."

Although he would like to see the city get paid, Anane says Fuller Road Management "doesn't have to write the city a blank check."   "Maybe they get us a firetruck. Maybe they help pave a street. Maybe they help pave a road.  Essentially, we're just calling on Fuller Road Management to honor their commitment that they made to the city of Albany. Currently in the city of Albany, 64 percent of the properties are tax-exempt. And most of those properties are state-owned properties. And the burden is on most of the homeowners that exist. 44 percent of the city residents are paying for 100 percent for the services that the city of Albany provides."

The mayor’s office did not return a request for comment.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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