One side of the room

Update 5 p.m. with comments from Gary Ferguson

Downtown Ithaca Alliance Executive Director Gary Ferguson said the abatement process wasn’t created to add permanent jobs or improve the environment but to attract development and housing to downtown Ithaca. He called on the IDA to approve the abatement, or tax break, for Jason Fane’s proposed development for Clinton Street.

“I want to remind you that we have this (abatement program) because we want to have projects built in our central core,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson stressed that this decision could improve the city for decades to come, even a century.

“We don’t move buildings,” he said. “These buildings are being built for 50 and 100 years.”

Ferguson emphasized the importance of putting money and housing in downtown Ithaca.

“We are trying to make sure that when housing gets built it gets built where we want it to get built,” Ferguson said.

“Tax abatements do not take money away from people. Tax abatements help grow the pot.”

Earlier —

Ithaca, N.Y. — About three dozen people have filled the Tompkins County Legislature chambers Thursday afternoon for a controversial vote on a tax abatement for a local developer.

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The Tompkins County IDA is voting today on whether Jason Fane will get a financial incentive for a proposed development on Clinton Street. Fane has said the project — which will bring new housing near the downtown area — is impossible without the tax break.

The proposal has been discussed for months; here’s a recap from a recent hearing.

Speakers then began taking turns around 4:05 p.m. Legislator Jim Dennis asked members of the public to try and avoid repeating themselves to cut down on time.

Fane sat at a table as speakers took turn criticizing the development.

“I’m very concerned about the project proposal,” said Besty Harrington.

“It’s a uniquely bad site, on a steep slope … I’m also concerned that the building is not particularly energy efficient.”

One side of the room
One side of the room

She also questioned why the city would put a development near, she said, a public park.

“I think density downtown is a fine goal but that doesn’t mean every square inch must be developed,” she said.

Dan Hoffman, former city attorney, also spoke at the public hearing.

“I think the rationale for your decision needs to take into account the full picture … it should include public opinion,” Hoffman said, calling on the IDA to reject the abatement.

Another speaker quoted extensively from a 2014 Cornell Daily Sun article, “Businesses Allege Ithaca Renting Company Drives Tenants Away Through ‘Horrible Leases.’”

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Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.