Busy Suffolk IDA eyes jobs in new incentives packages

Hall right: The Suffolk IDA is looking to help private hotel developers transform the old Huntington Town Hall.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Take a breath, Suffolk County IDA!

It’s already been a busy 2020 for the jobs-focused Industrial Development Agency, which continued to build pro-employment momentum this week with fresh tax-incentive deals promising hundreds of temporary construction jobs in the short term and the creation/retention of hundreds of full-time positions later.

Just weeks after greenlighting tax breaks for the developers of Destination KP – a tourism magnet billed as “the largest privately owned mixed-use sports and medical community in the tri-state area” – the IDA has preliminarily approved an incentives deal for Kravet Inc., a leading global home-furnishings distributor relocating its headquarters from Bethpage to Melville.

Separately, the IDA has taken similar steps on an assistance package for Huntington Village Hotel Partners, an LLC looking to renovate the historic Huntington Town Hall on Main Street and construct a 53,636-square-foot addition, resulting in a new, 80-room boutique hotel.

Both of the new incentives deals – each receiving only preliminary nods so far, and still requiring final IDA approvals – were made with jobs in mind, noted Suffolk IDA Executive Director Tony Catapano.

Tony Catapano: Win-win with Kavet, Huntington hotel deals.

For instance, the $16.8 million Kravet relocation to a vacant 54,000-square-foot space in Melville, necessitated by a Metropolitan Transit Authority project forcing the circa-1918 distributor from its longtime Bethpage home, will move 233 full-time positions onto Suffolk County’s employment rolls – a win for the county and for Long Island as a whole, according to Catapano.

“Kravet has long called Long Island home, and will continue to do so,” Catapano said Thursday. “We are excited to work with an international powerhouse in home furnishings and retain hundreds of high-paying jobs in the process.”

Employment gains also surround the long-simmering Huntington development. Just as the Kravet renovation effort is projected to create hundreds of temporary construction jobs, so is the $24 million hotel construction project, with 14 full-time positions to follow.

Not only that, but the new hotel “will bring scores of new visitors to the area,” noted Catapano, while generating an additional $2.7 million in annual tax revenues, according to Suffolk IDA Deputy Executive Director Kelly Morris.

Hotelier George Tsunis, a principal of Huntington Village Hotel Partners, said the oft-discussed hotel would “breathe new life back into this historic structure.”

“We are thankful to the IDA for its assistance,” Tsunis said in a statement. “Considering the costs associated with restoring and renovating Old Town Hall, adding structured parking and building on the steep grades of the property, this project would not be financially viable without the IDA’s help.”

It’s a similar story for Kravet, which would likely have relocated off Long Island if the Suffolk IDA hadn’t stepped up, according to President Carey Kravet.

“The IDA’s assistance is crucial in helping us develop a new HQ and retain our talented workforce,” Kravet added.

That’s why the IDA is here, noted Morris, who stressed jobs are Job. No. 1 for the IDA. And while tax-abatement deals continue to receive mixed reviews across the nation – particularly in the wake of Amazon’s HQ2 fiasco – they remain a vital weapon in the IDA’s arsenal, according to the executive director.

“Hundreds of high-paying jobs are staying on Long Island as a result of [the Kravet] project,” Morris said. “We hope the IDA can continue to be a partner with this company as it expands its portfolio all over the world.”