Congressman Higgins Pushes for Erie & Niagara Communities to be Nominated as Federal Opportunity Zones
Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) is advocating for Western New York neighborhoods to be nominated as federal Opportunity Zones, under a new program that provides tax incentives to encourage investment in designated economically distressed areas.
“Western New York’s renaissance won’t be fully realized until it reaches into struggling neighborhoods,” said Congressman Higgins. “The Opportunity Zone program can provide a new tool to draw needed attention into communities that would significantly benefit from investments and job creation.”
Changes to the federal Internal Revenue Code, enacted in the recent tax code overhaul, provides for the establishment of Opportunity Zones, which allows investors to take the proceeds of profitable investments and move them to an Opportunity Fund, lowering the tax burden for investors and providing new resources for job creating investments in low-income communities. Official guidance on the program was released by the IRS this week.
Under the new policy, States may submit Opportunity Zone nominations to the U.S. Treasury on or before March 21, 2018. States may only designate up to 25% of the census tracts that qualify. After States submit nominations for Opportunity Zones, the Treasury Secretary will have 30 days to certify and designate based on submitted nominations.
In a letter to New York State, Higgins encourages the state to participate and advocates, “that in the state’s submission, in the interest of fairness and equity within the state, Erie and Niagara counties receive at least their minimum fair share of designations. Specifically, 128 census tracts in Erie and Niagara counties are eligible for designation. Therefore, if the designations were distributed equitably, no fewer than 32 Census tracts in Erie and Niagara counties (25%) would receive the designation.”
Higgins’ letter points out examples of areas and projects in Western New York which could benefit from an Opportunity Zone designation.
This program holds the promise of driving substantial new investment into initiatives like:
- The continued growth of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
- Future phases of the Northland Corridor Redevelopment Project on Buffalo’s East Side.
- The Broadway-Fillmore Historic District, including the redevelopment of the New York Central Terminal.
- Projects like the proposed Cooperage redevelopment along Ohio Street and Shea’s Seneca on Seneca Street in South Buffalo.
- The Bethlehem Steel redevelopment in Lackawanna, NY.
- The Huntley plant site redevelopment in Tonawanda.
- Downtown and Main Street redevelopment in Niagara Falls.
- The ongoing redevelopment of the West Side of Buffalo, and Black Rock and Riverside.
- Portions of Payne Ave. and Oliver Street in North Tonawanda.
- Investments around the Cedargrove Heights neighborhood in Cheektowaga.
Based on census data, over 41,000 census tracts nationwide are eligible for designation as a Qualified Opportunity Zone. New York has a total of 2051 Low Income Community (LIC) tracts in the state, of those up to 513 LIC tracts can be nominated, and of those nominated 5% or up to 26 in New York State can be non-LIC contiguous tracts. A map of eligible census tracts and additional information is available at: www.cdfifund.gov/Pages/Opportunity-Zones.aspx.