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JUNE 10 - JUNE 18, 2014

Bridgewater Bid for Tax Break Extension Would Seem Doomed

By Tony Farina

June 10, 2014

Bizarrely, this Bridgewater project, which will create just three low wage jobs, secured $1.8 million in tax breaks from the IDA.

The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency (NCIDA) often hands out tax breaks and other financial incentives to promote business growth and attract jobs in the county, but the pitch they are expected to hear on Wednesday (June 11) for an extension of previously awarded tax benefits for what is now a controversial Lewiston project, has mission impossible written all over it.

This newspaper has reported extensively on the controversy surrounding Bridgewater Estates and its relationship with former Lewiston Town Supervisor Steven Reiter who rammed through Bridgewater's plans for a $12.3 million senior luxury apartment complex with nary a red flag or an environmental study during his tenure as supervisor.

And regarding the expected pitch Wednesday for an extension, it should be noted that Reiter was listed as a part owner (19 percent) of the Bridgewater Estates project to be built on his mother's rezoned land during its initial success in securing $1.8 million in tax breaks from the NCIDA with the help of former, and once again IDA Chairman Henry Sloma.

Sloma took a break in between his chairman stints, and it was during that period that he admittedly helped prepare the application for tax breaks for Bridgewater before the NCIDA, the public benefit corporation he had chaired for seven years, and where he has since returned after assisting his friend Reiter's project win tax relief.

Never mind Sloma's obvious conflict, which would seem to force him to recuse himself from Wednesday's pitch by Bridgewater for an extension of the tax breaks as the project is mired in a lawsuit and zoning board delay as officials, prodded by the stories in this newspaper, seek to sort out what happened and how Bridgewater and its partner, at least in the initial NCIDA application, Steven Reiter, won approval from the town with nary a whimper about environmental issues, zoning changes, and much, much more.

This newspaper has chronicled the story of Bridgewater's rapid march to town approval, a path rubber stamped by Reiter's town board and other town officials that included a waiver of a traffic study that likely would have raised concerns about the planned driveway to be used by seniors coming out on a 55-mph speedway against Rt. 104 truck traffic.

You can't make this stuff up that goes with this Bridgewater story, like the fact that Bridgewater's attorney is now saying it was a mistake to list Reiter as a 19 percent partner on the original NCIDA application even though Bridgewater managing partner Anthony Cutaia was quoted in the Buffalo News in May of 2013 as saying a "minority ownership for the Reiters was part of the deal." Marjorie Reiter, Steven's mother, is a widow. So which is it? How can the NCIDA, with or without Sloma, possibly do anything connected with Bridgewater until the ownership, lawsuit, and the fast-approval process are sorted out?

Bridgewater would appear to have a much tougher road ahead in cashing in on its planned project on land owned by Reiter's mother now that this newspaper has pulled back the covers on how Reiter greased the path for his silent partners to help them get their lucrative deal done without a hint of insider trading. At this point, there are many more questions than answers, and it is time for the NCIDA to punt, with or without Sloma, who for a time was on the other team.





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©2014 The Niagara Falls Reporter Inc.
POB 3083, Niagara Falls, N.Y. 14304
Phone: (716) 284-5595

Publisher and Editor in Chief: Frank Parlato
Managing Editor: Dr. Chitra Selvaraj
Senior Editor: Tony Farina