Volume 74, Number 50 | April 20 - 26 , 2005

Chinatown Empire Zone is sounding more like a reality

By Albert Amateau

The state budget revisions that the State Legislature passed April 12 include an expansion of the state Empire Zone program that could likely aid businesses in Chinatown, according to aides of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

The 1986 Empire Zone program provides significant tax breaks and low-cost loans for qualifying businesses in a zone to increase their investments and expand their work forces.

The budget revisions, passed in Albany more than three weeks after the March 21 original budget, creates 12 additional Empire Zones in the state and reforms eligibility requirements for the program, according to Skip Carrier, chief of Silver’s legislative staff. Business and civic groups, unions and elected officials were disappointed last year when the Empire State Development Corporation did not create a new Chinatown/Lower East Side Empire Zone proposed by the city and backed by Silver.

“The speaker has long felt that Empire Zones had the potential to become an important tool for economic recovery, and this reform means that Chinatown’s experience since Sept. 11, 2001, will receive the consideration it deserves,” Carrier said.

Although the budget revision does not specify Chinatown or any other community for the 12 new zones, Carrier said the neighborhood has a definite advantage because the application for the Chinatown/Lower East Side Empire Zone already exists. Jim Quent, another Silver spokesperson, said on April 12 that Silver was not going to agree to the budget deal unless a Chinatown zone was assured.

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