RAMAPO, N.Y. -- A candidate for state office is questioning why $3 million in taxpayer money is being earmarked for a non-profit organization’s supermarket project in a Ramapo village.
Republican Tom DePrisco is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. David Carlucci in the race for the 38th Senate District seat.
The Pearl River resident Wednesday attacked Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council (EDC) for allowing, he said, “$2,950,000 in taxpayer funds” to “go toward the building of the new Heritage Park Industrial Complex in New Square.”
DePrisco charged Carlucci with making an inaccurate statement during a recent interview on FiOS1.
“My opponent,” he said, “intimated that this project was involved with the START-UP NY program.”
DePrisco said he had discovered that the project "is not eligible for START-UP NY funds because it is a retail business and is not seemingly associated with a New York State college or university.”
“It is eligible, however, by someone’s standards, for Empire State Development funds – nearly $3 million in taxpayer-funded grants for a $6 million building complex,” he said.
Carlucci spokeman Esteban Maccera said Friday that the EDC money had been awarded directly from the governor’s office without consulting the senator.
In a statement, Carlucci said he shared the concerns of his colleague, Democratic state Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, that their offices “were never notified of the revised proposals or consulted as to what their impact on the community might be.”
“This also speaks to a larger issues in which Empire State Development money is frequently rewarded to projects without key community stakeholders being consulted,” Carlucci said.
While not opposed to the project, the senator feels it needs to be thoroughly “vetted” and “scrutinized,” Maccera said.
“It is clear that more transparency and systematic requirements for approval must be put in place so that all taxpayers have the confidence that money being allocated in the name of economic development is being rewarded in a clear and equitable manner,” Carlucci said.
The senator promised to work with local officials to make sure the project -- to be housed in a 30,000-square-foot, two-story building at 20 Mezritch Road -- follows all “zoning, building, and operating requirements.”
According to lohud.com, it will be owned by the nonprofit Community Improvement Council and run by Hatzlacha Supermarkets.
More and more apartment buildings are going up in the area and access to fresh food is crucial for a population whose main means of transportation is walking, local officials told lohud.com.
Chesed/Share of New Square, a tax-exempt charitable organization, has plans to lease offices in the building.
According to lohud.com, $1.6 million of the project’s cost will be covered by Empire State Development funding under the Restore New York Communities initiative, a $600,000 grant from the ESD’s regional council’s capital fund; and a $750,000 Community Block Grant.
DePrisco said that while he encourages “economic development which spurs new jobs,” he also fails to see how a project with tax-exempt owners and tenants would benefit Ramapo and Rockland County “financially.”
One of the more controversial aspects of the project has been the supermarket’s plans to operate a kosher poultry packaging and distribution center in the building.
“Considering the previous attempts to build a poultry slaughterhouse nearby, these plans must be scrutinized to ensure that a slaughterhouse would not be incorporated later on,” DePrisco said.
According to Carlucci, the proposal for the project, as presented in 2009 to the Empire State Development Corp., contained plans for a chicken slaughterhouse.
Carlucci said he and the community both opposed that aspect of the plan, and it was removed.
“I believed then as I do now, that an industrial facility of this kind has no place in a residential community,” the senator said.
DePrisco, who is vice president of the Pearl River Board of Education and the Rockland County School Boards Association, said the state and elected officials should have “realized the absurdity” of allocating funds that could be used for “another eligible tax ratable,” schools, public safety or infrastructure.
The 38th Senate District covers the towns of Orangetown, Clarkstown and Ramapo in Rockland County and the town of Ossining and the village of Briarcliff Manor in Westchester County.
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