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Ting grant tied up in confusion

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — May 14, 2010 — At last week’s Monticello Village Board meeting, mixed messages were sent about the status of the Restore NY grant program and its associated project.
In the days since, those messages have remained mixed.
Developer Tommy Ting and Mayor Gordon Jenkins, for example, say they’re just waiting for the needed state approval to turn several properties on Broadway into an “Entertainment Village” with music clubs and restaurants.
Village Manager John Barbarite and Deputy Village Manager John LiGreci, on the other hand, are warning that the state may pull the grant due to a lack of needed information.
Meanwhile, the state itself – specifically the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), a business development arm of state government – wants an amended proposal.
The situation is remarkably similar to the result of a meeting held in late winter between Ting and county officials and area businesspeople. Some left that meeting confident that Entertainment Village will be realized, others deeply concerned.
ESDC, whose board delayed a planned April vote to finalize the project, released this statement to the Democrat:
We understand the community’s need to move forward with endeavors that would yield local job creation and capital investment, and RESTORE NY funding supports that need. However, the nature of the project has changed, and the village must submit its request for consideration of an amended project. After its submission we can move forward, working with the grantee – the Village of Monticello – to bring this item before the [ESDC] board in the near future.
That change ostensibly is the dropping of 476 Broadway – known as the Nu-Design Furniture store – from the plans, which would have included a shopping mall and hotel.
Ting told village board members at last week’s meeting that of the $1.75 million awarded to the village for his project, the state only allowed $50,000 for the renovations of that section of the Entertainment Village – too small an amount, he said, to make it feasible.
So instead, he’s focusing on the rock club and associated venues at 426 Broadway, the old Sedlack location. He plans to work with Bitter End nightclub owner Paul Colby to site another version of that famed Greenwich Village club in Monticello.
Ting, however, didn’t indicate that change was the impetus behind the state’s delay.
Instead, he told village officials that New York’s budget woes have held up the funds.
But he must first expend money before the state will allow the village – the actual grantee – to give Ting the grant.
Originally, Ting would have had to conclude construction and open the facility before the $1.75 million would be released. Now, however, he’s worked out an agreement with the state for “progress payments” whereby he’ll get $500,000 after he spends $500,000 and so forth.
He remains confident and excited about his plans, but he urged the board to send a letter to the ESDC asking it to move forward with the process that will make the funds available.
That letter has yet to be sent out, though the board unanimously agreed to do so.
“I’m 100 percent in favor of the project,” noted Trustee Victor Marinello. “... This letter is holding up the whole thing. They need to know for sure we’re in support of the project.”
But Barbarite and LiGreci told the board Ting must first provide the state with a $1 million letter of credit so as to assure ESDC it will get its money back if anything goes wrong.
If that’s not provided, the grant “is in jeopardy of being lost,” LiGreci told the board. “The grant is borderline right now.”
Barbarite, in a later interview, added that the village’s planning board has yet to give site plan approval, a requirement of the grant.
Ting countered that the planning board continues to add requirements at every meeting. Plus, he said, his investors want to see the Grant Disbursement Agreement before they send the state a letter of credit committing them to the project (although Ting already has two such letters dating back to last year, totalling more than $2 million).
Ting’s consultant, Ed Arace, told the board that agreement from the state is what is now needed to move ahead.
“You have to have the paperwork first,” he told the Democrat.
Arace used to be the Mid-Hudson ESDC’s regional director and vice president, so he’s intimately familiar with the state’s requirements.
“It’s nobody’s fault,” he observed. “Everybody seems on board. It’s a matter of moving the process forward.”
Trustee Carmen Rue is not so sure everyone is on board, aiming her comments at Barbarite and LiGreci.
“They should help Mr. Ting,” she said. “They should not go against the project. Instead of criticizing, they should help.”
Mayor Jenkins said this week that the letter’s wording is being tweaked and will be sent out by the end of this week. He wouldn’t give details, however.
“We’re working on it now,” Jenkins said Wednesday. “Everything’s in place, and I’m 100 percent behind it. The whole board is behind Tommy’s project. It’s going to happen.”
“The village has to push,” said Ting. “I’ve already got the grant, and the financial information is there. This is a small fraction of what I can do, and the state knows that.”

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