Historic New Program Cleans Up Brownfield Sites, Returns Them to Active Use, and Protects Taxpayers From Liability.
Suffolk County, NY - October 22, 2018 - Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today announced that the County has secured nearly $500,000 through the Suffolk County Landbank Corporation’s revitalization efforts. The Landbank is presenting two checks to the County Comptroller for a total of $496,870 to cover incurred staff costs and the portion of proceeds from the sale of tax liens on brownfield properties. This payment represents the first time the Suffolk County Landbank has paid the County from revenue generated through the sale of tax liens.
“The Landbank’s work is paying dividends on multiple levels,” said County Executive Bellone “Not only is the Landbank cleaning up the environment, eliminating blight and returning properties to productive use, it is also protecting County taxpayers from the burden of making other taxing jurisdictions whole for the failure of owners of brownfield sites to pay property taxes. In addition to the nearly $500,000 being paid to the County today, the Landbank’s efforts have generated $6 million in delinquent property taxes.”
Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory said: “The lingering effect tax-delinquent brownfield properties have can be devastating to communities, the economy and the environment. I am proud of the work we have done and continue to do through the Suffolk County Landbank to facilitate the redevelopment of these properties and put them back on the tax rolls.”
Minority Leader Tom Cilmi said: “Today the Suffolk County Landbank celebrates another important milestone as we, for the first time, return to the County nearly half a million dollars from the sale of brownfield tax liens.”
Under an agreement between Suffolk County and the Landbank, County staff members are loaned to the Landbank and assigned to help facilitate the redevelopment of tax-delinquent, environmentally impacted brownfield properties and zombie homes. In 2018, the Landbank closed on the sale of tax liens for three brownfield sites that were to private sector buyers for cleanup and redevelopment. As a result of those transactions, the Landbank has sufficient funds to repay the County $255,099.29 for staff time incurred on behalf of the Landbank through June 2018. An additional $241,771.50 is being paid as its share of amounts of the lien sales pursuant to the agreement.
Before the Landbank was established, it was County policy not to take title to tax delinquent brownfield properties in order to protect taxpayers from liability, despite the owners’ failure to pay property taxes for many years. As a result, such sites remained contaminated and unused, with property taxes unpaid, often for decades. The creation of the Landbank has broken that cycle by shielding the County from liability, providing a mechanism for cleanups, and returning impacted properties to active use, creating jobs and enhanced tax revenues.
Under a 1915 State Law known as the Suffolk County Tax Act, in instances where a property owner fails to pay property taxes, the County is responsible for reimbursing unpaid taxes to local taxing jurisdictions. This resulted in cumulative costs to the County of $35 million a year in unpaid taxes that the County was obligated to pay to local taxing jurisdictions to make them whole for taxes left unpaid by property owners. Since its formation, the owners of 94 tax-delinquent properties added to the Landbank’s list of brownfield properties, have paid $6 million in back taxes to avoid the sale of liens to new owners, and the Landbank itself has generated $1.1 million from tax lien sales, turning 6 properties over to new owners who are responsible for cleaning them up and returning them to active use.
In addition to its historic success in breaking the logjam that prevented cleanup and reuse of brownfield sites, the Landbank administers the only program on Long Island that converts zombie homes that create blight in local communities into clean, safe housing opportunities for first-time homebuyers. Since 2016, using the proceeds of a fund created through a settlement between New York State and lending institutions, the Landbank has worked with groups including the Long Island Housing Partnership, Habitat for Humanity, and United Way to transform blighted zombie homes into shining new housing opportunities for families, helping to stabilize neighborhoods.
The Suffolk County Landbank is a not-for-profit corporation, which was organized in accordance with the New York State Land Bank Act. The purpose is to facilitate the redevelopment of distressed and underutilized properties within Suffolk County to better serve the public interest. For more information you can visit www.suffolkcountylandbank.org.