The Politics of Petropolis
“Twister of Fate” was an apt title for Molly English’s Sept. 5 interview with Sen. John DeFrancisco regarding his role in the Destiny USA saga. But it should be clear. The senator was not merely a “doubter.” He was an active opponent. His actions “twisted fate.”
Unfortunately, his opposition was based on an unknown assumption—that the Carousel Center mall would pay an amount in property taxes ranging from $12 million to $20 million annually—over four times higher than the rate paid by Shoppingtown. This is an important consideration. As acknowledged by the senator, if the taxes are too high, businesses move to the competing facility. Secondly, the $12 million to $20 million claim set the bar for judging economic benefits of the proposed Destiny USA development. An estimate of $4 million would have been more realistic, and actual receipts are much greater so far.
Sen. DeFrancisco’s opposition also had an effect on undermining the prospects for Destiny USA. His veto of a $25 million grant from New York state to initiate a Central New York Regional Development office was critical. The office would have been funded annually by retaining the state’s portion of the sales taxes generated at the new development. This would have made it possible to promote the benefits of our region competitively to a global market.
Just as we will never know what the taxes for Carousel would have been, we will never know what Destiny USA could have been if construction had started in 2003. Lawsuits filed by the city and opposition led by Sen. DeFrancisco were successful in delaying the development.
But even without knowing the outcomes, the prospects are clear. The economy was booming in 2003. Capital was available. A team of planners from Disney was working on the vision. New York state was prepared to fund the economic development center. Empire Zone credits, another form of external funding, were available, and as Sen. DeFrancisco once said when he created a new law firm, anyone would be foolish not take advantage of them.
And we do know some outcomes. Employment has gone up at Destiny USA—with many more people working at enterprises that would not otherwise exist. $600 million in construction work has been completed without incurring public debt. The oil tanks are gone. The prior taxes on the tank yard and the junk yard that Carousel replaced have been paid in full.
Most importantly, visitors from outside our region continue to bring their economic resources to our region. The senator claims that moving Dick’s Sporting Goods to Destiny USA is only “shuffling stores around.” He misses the whole point of Destiny USA. No one comes from Canada, or anywhere outside our region, to shop at Dick’s in Fairmount. But Dick’s will be adding value to our local economy when visitors make purchases at Destiny USA.
Because no one knows the outcome of Destiny USA, or what would have been the future of Carousel Center without Destiny, it is premature to declare any victories. In fact, such an exercise serves no purpose. The question might be revisited in 10 years or so. If Destiny USA continues to grow and prospers, the benefits will be apparent even to the “doubters.”
So it would be more helpful for our community finally to rally for the future of Destiny USA. The city can gain so much by forming a creative partnership with Destiny USA. The community can gain by embracing Destiny USA as a new industry to offset the devastating changes in our local economy. While the vision has changed since the first proposal in 2000, the prospects are strong. Fate can still be “twisted” in our favor.
Former City Auditor
Wanted: Be on the look out for any 1952 Syracuse North High grads who may be unaware of their upcoming 60th class reunion scheduled to take place on Sunday, Oct. 14, from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Ramada Inn, Buckley Road.
Warning: Many may not be recognizable. Features to look for: hair loss, wrinkled skin, hearing aids, canes and walkers. Others may be posing as Nice ‘n Easy blondes or Botox babes. A hairpiece may surface here and there.
Fear not: They may have totaled 77 or 78 years on the calendar but deep down, they’re still the smooth-faced, fun-loving, lighthearted lads and lassies who graced the grounds on Mary Street those many years ago.
Still connected to those no longer living in the area? Please contact them. Perhaps they’d like to make up a table and partake of the poignant evening to be.
Time’s running out. Call Corky (Scarfino) Intaglietta at 457-8059 or Joygerm Joan E. White at 472-2779. They’re waiting with baited breath for your call (and you know how difficult that is at their age). Come to think of it, Corky’s still playing tennis these days with her husband, Hank.
See you there.
—Joygerm Joan White
North High School
Class of 1952