Newsday
April 30, 2005

Fire union: Stadium money could be used for city pay hikes

BY WILLIAM MURPHY STAFF WRITER

The mayor's new financing plan for West Side redevelopment uses money that could instead fund pay hikes for city workers, the firefighters' union said Friday.

Until February, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his aides said the money would come from the capital budget, which cannot be used for day-to-today expenses, such as salaries.

Now, the administration wants about $300 million in special revenue from real-estate taxes, called PILOTs, to be used for the project, which includes a new stadium for the Jets. That discretionary money, Uniformed Firefighters Association officials said, could go toward pay hikes for workers such as teachers, police and firefighters, long working without contracts.

The PILOTs are not part of the capital budget and can be used for either day-to-day or capital expenses, Preston Niblack, deputy director of the Independent Budget Office, said Friday.

The only issue, Niblack said, is whether the mayor is correct in his assertion that he can use the money at his discretion before it gets to the general fund and is controlled jointly with the City Council through the normal budgetary process. Fire union president Stephen Cassidy said it was now clear that the city had not made an accurate statement about the financing of the project.

PILOTs are deals negotiated to spur economic activity by having property owners make lower payments to the city in lieu of the usual real-estate taxes they would pay.

The fire union took its public stand against using PILOTs for the West Side just two days after the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association took a similar position.

PBA President Patrick Lynch said it was now clear that the city's prior statements were "not entirely true and that PILOTs ... will be diverted to this pet construction project."

In response to the fire union statement, the mayor's office released a statement saying: "By investing in the sports and convention center now, it will mean thousands of new jobs for hard working New Yorkers and nearly a billion dollars in new tax revenue over the next 30 years to pay our firefighters, cops and teachers."