Hey, little guy - pay taxman or pay pols
by Kirsten Danis, NY Daily News
A Queens sandwich maker who got a rare state tax break with the help of the Bloomberg administration and City Council paid dearly for it: $25,000 in lobbying fees and political contributions.
Bimmy's in Long Island City was the first New York City business to be named a "regionally significant project" - a bureaucratic term that allowed it to be part of an Empire Zone in Jamaica even though it's 9 miles away.
The designation could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in state payroll, sales and investment tax breaks.
Recently released documents show owner Elliot Fread paid lobbyist Robert Altman $21,628 last year to plead his case with the Council and the Department of Small Business Services.
Bimmy's also donated $1,000 to Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) in May; $1,000 to Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Queens) in July and $1,500 to Councilman James Gennaro (D-Queens) in December, just a few days before Council approved the deal.
Fread said he hired Altman, who is also his lawyer, as a lobbyist after his 2006 application for the program inexplicably stalled.
"It was an unbelievable learning experience," Fread said. "You just get frustrated. It was very political."
As one of the city's few small manufacturers - Bimmy's makes rolled-up sandwiches for airports and other vendors - Fread was getting city tax breaks when he learned of the state program.
Fread said the Council resisted including him in an Empire Zone because the program had been tainted with fraud before it was retooled in 2005.
The company has to hire at least 50 new employees over the next five years to get the break.
Fread called himself "an average small businessman" who was surprised he needed to hire a lobbyist to get access to a program for which he was qualified. He said his long slog - aided by his checkbook - may help other manufacturers.
"The reality is the next person or the next company won't have to do it," Fread said.