Jason Fane at an unrelated City Hall meeting this summer


Ithaca, N.Y. — Jason Fane spoke at a hearing Thursday afternoon about whether a government agency should give a tax abatement — essentially, a tax break — for his proposed housing development on Clinton Street near the Ithaca Police Department.

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Fane’s remarks followed those of community members, local attorneys and others who have said the Tompkins County IDA should reject the abatement. Several city officials have defended the project as necessary for bolstering the city’s downtown urban core.

Now, however, it was time for Fane himself to speak.

Here’s what he said:

“Hi, my name is Jason Fane … I live in the city of Ithaca,” he began.

“I’m truly astounded by the level of interest” in a small project, Fane said.

“I thought it would be helpful if I explained a few things and resolve any ambiguity on some issues … If the tax abatement is approved, the project will go forward. If it is not approved, the project will die. … It’s not a case of … (maybe. Without the abatement, the project) … will absolutely die today.”

“The second point I’d like to clarify … There’s been a lot of discussion about the site. And various people have had criticisms about the site. Some say it’s hilly; some say it’s a place where there’s rain.”

Fane said he agreed that it’s not an ideal site: “I’m well aware of this.”

“Why is this project proposed on this site? I think the downtown strongly needs greater density,” he said, noting that stores will do better, the city’s tax base will grow and more people will work downtown if the project is approved.

Fane added that he backed the abatement program for downtown Ithaca when it was first being discussed. When it was passed, Fane said, he looked to build downtown — but plans for the best sites ran aground amid problems like landmark designation for different buildings.

“What was left was 130 Clinton Street,” which is where the current proposal is, Fane said.

Fane went on to address some of the speakers’ negative comments about him.

“I’ve heard a lot of people saying hostile and accusatory remarks: I don’t know what the basis of these things are. I think people are talking to each other and convincing themselves.”

Fane explained that he believes negative perceptions about his renting practices are a big part of the reason why storefronts remain vacant.

“We make a sincere effort to rent stores; but this hostile talk makes our job harder, not easier … if they really want to see the stores full they’re working against what they say they want.”

He concluded:

“So, in summary, to get back to the main point — if the abatement is approved ,the project moves forward. If the abatement is not approved, the project dies.”

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