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For new Opportunity Zones New York State’s focus is cities

By Charles McChesney


ALBANY — Across the state and the region, downtowns were at the front of the line when New York chose which Census tracts to nominate for new federal tax breaks.

Under the tax-cut legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump at the end of 2017, certain investments in low-income areas — defined by Census tracts — can be eligible for tax breaks.

Based on the number of Census tracts with poverty rates of at least 20 percent or median family incomes of no more than 80 percent of the statewide or metropolitan area family income, New York was able to nominate up to 514 Census tracts. It did so on April 20, the deadline.

“In New York State, we’ve focused on revitalizing our downtowns and investing in the communities that need it most,” Howard Zemsky, president and CEO of Empire State Development (ESD), said in a release.

New York State Secretary of State Rossana Rosado echoed the sentiment. “Similar to the scope of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, the areas identified are ripe for attention and revitalization,” she noted.

ESD, the state’s economic-development agency, said the areas were selected based on analyses by New York State Homes and Community Renewal, New York State Department of State, the state’s Regional Economic Development Councils, as well as its own analysis.

The 514 suggested Census tracts submitted will be reviewed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The department has 30 days to review and approve or reject the nominated tracts.

Investments made by individuals through special funds in the designated zones would be allowed to defer or eliminate federal capital-gains taxes.

“The Opportunity Zone program has significant potential to catalyze investment and drive real growth in some of the most underserved areas of our region,” says CenterState CEO President Rob Simpson “This is the kind of economic solution needed to address economic challenges across the CenterState region including Syracuse’s high rates of poverty and unemployment. We believe the state designated census tracts will benefit significantly from the investments and will provide community-wide returns.”

He added, “We know that these investments will ultimately lead to jobs being put in closer proximity to those that need them.”

ESD released maps showing the chosen zones. On the maps, the chosen tracts cluster in urban areas. Tracts were selected in Binghamton, Cortland, Fulton, Oswego, Ogdensburg, Utica, Watertown, and Ithaca. In Syracuse, with some of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States, more than a dozen Census tracts were designated by the state to become Opportunity Zones.

Not all the chosen zones are in urban areas, but the maps show large swaths of low-income rural areas where no Census tracts were nominated.

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