EAST HARLEM — State Sen. Adriano Espaillat proposed major legislative changes Wednesday that would provide affordable housing and commericial space for residents and businesses in Northern Manhattan.
Standing in front of the East River Plaza shopping center and joined by several small business owners, Espaillat took the wraps off of his "Economic Development For All" plan, which would provide tax breaks to developers who build affordable housing and to small businesses that hire local workers.
In introducing his plan, Espaillat took shots at Rep. Charles Rangel and the federal government for offering tax breaks to big box stores at the expense of small businsesses.
"[Small businesses] continue to be the heart and soul of the economy, and in this district — particularly in East Harlem — they have been forgotten," Espaillat said. "We're looking to make a total U-turn."
Under Espaillat's plan, developers would be eligible for tax credits if they set aside 30 percent of commercial space in new buildings for small businesses. The plan is similar to the city's 80/20 housing program, but would offer greater tax incentives.
Espaillat's model, dubbed "40/30/30," would extend to the housing market and would offer tax breaks to developers that set aside 30 percent of housing for middle-income families, police officers, firefighters and teachers, and 30 percent for low-income New Yorkers. The remaining 40 percent would then be available for market rates.
The senator also proposed providing as much as $6,000 in tax credits to small businesses that hire local employees, in addition to offering $2,500 in credits to large retailers that pay higher wages.
"We won't cut [big boxes] out completely, but they must show they are good neighbors and they are willing to give back to the community," Esapillat said.
Espaillat also proposed changes to the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, including instituting a participatory budgeting system, requiring annual public budgeting sessions in each neighborhood of the district and releasing all data on empowerment zone tax credits that have been claimed.
"A picture is worth a thousand words," Espaillat said as he motioned to the $500 million shopping center behind him, which opened in 2009 and which Rangel advocated for as far back as 2005. "Government has subsidized the big and continues to forget the small business owners."
Rangel campaign strategist Charlie King, who attended the event, was dismissive of Espaillat's proposals.
"He's been in the Senate for 18 years and he hasn't proposed one piece of legislation in regards to this policy," King said.