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Court denies Syracuse bid to regain Inner Harbor land

Ellen Abbott
WRVO News File Photo

The city of Syracuse will not get back the Inner Harbor land it sold to the real estate development company COR. That was the ruling Wednesday from New York State Supreme Court Justice James Murphy after the city sued COR for the $44-million PILOT (payment-in-lieu-of-taxes) agreement it signed with the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency.

The city alleged that COR committed fraud when the company reportedly promised they would not seek a PILOT deal with anyone.

"Now they've gone to OCIDA and abandoned the city after obtaining the parcels that they need. Thirteen days later, they go to OCIDA to get this PILOT and they're not required to negotiate with the city or offer the city any benefit any further because they're saying, 'Well, we don't need you anymore, city. We got the land, so we're leaving," said John Sickinger, attorney for the city.

Yet, COR's defense lawyer William Buckley said the company never signed any contract that prohibited them from doing so.

"If the city had some concern about this, if this was important to them, then they should have raised it then during that process," Buckley said.

The city wanted the land they sold to COR back so they could take it to another developer. But, Justice Murphy said it was too late to return all of the property because some of the Inner Harbor's residential and commercial projects are already well underway. COR has said that the Aloft Hotel is 85 percent complete.

Instead, Justice Murphy ruled that the city will have a chance to argue its case for monetary damages on January 21.

That doesn't help Syracuse United Neighbors Executive Director Rich Puchalski, whose organization wants to secure a certain portion of the Inner Harbor project's jobs for Syracuse city residents.

"This is a $343 million project and we’re going to continue to battle with this issue and other issues in the community in terms of job opportunities," Puchalski said. "There’s a little glimmer of hope on Monday. Hopefully the parties will agree to something. COR really needs to step up to the plate."

A conference between the two parties and Justice Murphy about a potential settlement will take place Monday.