Protests organized by Urban Jobs Task Force urge
COR Development Co. to hire city construction workers
The Urban Jobs Task Force launched its first protest at the Syracuse Inner Harbor on Feb. 18, 2016, calling on COR Development Co. to hire city residents for construction jobs at the harbor. About 20 community and task force members gathered on the corner of Solar and Court streets from noon to 12:30 p.m., holding signs and shouting, “We want jobs!”
Aggie Lane, president of the task force, said the group plans to hold protests every third Thursday of the month from noon to 12:30 p.m. because, she says, the $44 million tax deal between COR and the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency is unfair. COR owes it to the city to hire local residents, she says.
New York state owned the 34 acres of Inner Harbor land until it was transferred to the city of Syracuse in July 2011 to be developed. The city put out a request for proposals for development of the land in 2011. The city picked Fayetteville-based COR Development Co. to develop the land and sold 28 acres to the company. The construction plan includes a $342 million complex of hotels, apartments, retail and office space at the former Barge Canal terminal.
In December 2011, the Urban Jobs Task Force was formed to develop a Community Benefits Agreement, called a CBA, for the Inner Harbor development project.
In August 2013, the task force presented a draft of the Inner Harbor CBA to the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency, the Syracuse Common Council, Mayor Stephanie Miner and County Executive Joanie Mahoney. The CBA would require at least 25 percent of the project’s workforce to be local residents — 15 percent low-income city residents and 10 percent low-income county residents.
Soon after, the task force contacted COR, but COR responded that it would not negotiate a CBA because it was partnering with the Syracuse Educational Opportunity Center for help in hiring a workforce.
On Dec. 15, 2015, the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency granted COR a $44 million tax exemption deal. Just hours after that, Mayor Miner sued COR, saying the company broke its promise not to seek tax exemptions. COR denies it ever made such a promise.
On Feb. 22, 2016, State Supreme Court Judge James Murphy dismissed the lawsuit. He said the city did not show evidence that COR had violated the agreement with the city under which it purchased the land.
Since then, Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick has launched an investigation into Mayor Miner and her political allies, and whether there was any political misconduct in connection with the failed lawsuit. A judge's sealed ruling says Fitzpatrick can force Syracuse City Hall lawyers to testify about the case. So far though most of the activity around the investigation has happened behind closed doors.
The task force is urging the county and COR to work with the city to make a deal that allows COR to keep its tax exemptions while still providing jobs for local residents.
Lane, head of the task force, said the monthly demonstrations are to protest the inequity of the tax deal. She says the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency is signaling to developers that it is OK to bypass the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency. She also says the Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement, commonly known as PILOT, was never approved by the Syracuse Common Council. Syracuse elected officials and residents should have a say in matters concerning public tax dollars, Lane says, and COR owes it to the city to provide jobs.
In the meantime, Lane says the task force and the Common Council are working on drafting the Resident Employment Ordinance. The ordinance would require all city-contracted projects over $100,000 to hire 20 percent of its workforce from the city. Half of that 20 percent would have to come from distressed Census tracts.
Next step: Lane hopes the ordinance will go before the Syracuse Common Council to be voted on soon. If approved, the requirements would not apply to private contractors like COR, but only to contracts with the city.
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