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New York Tax: Harlem Hotel Cleared for Tax Break

A board controlled by Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave the green light Tuesday to award nearly $20 million in federal tax-exempt financing to help football star Emmitt Smith build a hotel and retail project in Harlem.

The 10-1 vote from the board of the New York City Capital Resource Corp. comes days after Mr. Smith's team of developers reached an agreement with the New York Hotel Trades Council to hire at least 50% of the hotel's permanent work force from Harlem. The development team also agreed to let the hotel workers unionize.

Mr. Smith's firm, ESmith Legacy Inc., has proposed building an $81 million hotel and retail project, including a supermarket and YMCA, on an open lot at the southwest corner of 125th Street and Lenox Avenue. The hotel is expected to create 129 construction jobs and 81 permanent jobs. Construction is slated to begin by year's end.

"The proposed development in Harlem would transform a vacant site into a vibrant mixed-use building," said Seth Pinsky, the board's chairman. "When completed, the project benefits would far outweigh its modest costs, creating scores of unionized permanent and construction jobs."

Officials estimate the cost to the city in forgone tax revenue will be roughly $300,000 during the next 30 years, compared with an estimated gain of $32 million in tax revenue from the project's construction and operation during that period.

Council Member Inez Dickens, whose district includes the project, called the agreement with the Hotel Trades Council a "good first step." She said she remains concerned that a similar agreement has yet to be finalized for the nonhotel portion of the project and wishes the vote could have been delayed. "This is going to make it a little more difficult for me now," she said.

Brian Morris, co-founder and president of ESmith Legacy, said he's committed to reaching a labor agreement on the other parts of the project.

"We're looking forward to being great neighbors in Harlem, the type of neighbors that put down roots and invest and are long-term players in that community," he said.

Neal Kwatra, political director of the Hotel Trades Council said the developers "listened to community concerns and addressed them in a thoughtful and respectful manner."

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