The doors of the Lionsgate Studios are about to open. The much anticipated launch of the 100,000 sq. foot entertainment production facility will herald a new venue for movie production houses in the New York metropolitan area.
Already, another entertainment company has signed up for space in the Y.O. In late October, 2021, the Yonkers Industrial Development Authority granted preliminary approval for Hudson View Associates. The company wants to build a soundstage with offices and storage space at iPark, near the Yonkers Train Station.
"According to the developers’ application, the second phase will cost $60 million. But they are asking for tax exemptions on $75 million for the mortgage and the goods and services. The subsidies work out to about $3.1 million in exemptions for sales and use taxes and a mortgage recording tax." - Westfair Business Publications
The developers have asked for a property tax abatement for 15 years. They state that project will create 400 construction jobs, and from 265 to 420 full-time equivalent jobs. Beyond that, there is the rosy prediction by the developers that supporting companies in the complex will create 1,000 to 2,000 new jobs and $65 million dollars in additional economic activity will benefit the City of Hills.
Sounds familiar? You betcha. When the Lionsgate Studios were initially proposed in 2019, they asked for the following.
"Lionsgate viewed Yonkers as a potentially challenging site given its early stages of redevelopment," National Resources said in its application to the IDA. "Lionsgate would not have come to iPark and the project would not be feasible, but for the financial incentives provided by the IDA, which will result in the project bringing between 265 and 420 jobs to Yonkers." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dppYQ0uBieU
In addition, the developer requested a 20-year payment in lieu of taxes agreement, a sales and use tax exemption and a mortgage recording tax exemption from the city’s IDA. And once again, the quid pro quo was the jobs incentive.
Politicians use the jobs incentive ploy to move their agendas. Companies finance their campaigns and association with those companies elevate their status. That's politics. But the trickle down impact of those deals rarely reaches the people who need it most.
Lionsgate is staffed by 3,500 people worldwide. In 2020, Lionsgate laid off 15% of staff in its film division as the company adjusted to changes in the movie business complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Santa Monica-based studio which is similar in size to the new Yonkers studios employed approximately 450 people worldwide.
Hudson View Associates dangles the carrot of construction jobs. Specifically 400. Yet, a nagging controversy remains between skilled tradesman and the Y.O.
In 2019, the city was in dispute with the county’s union building trades. The Yonkers IDA had signed on to a PILOT program that required project labor agreements with the Building and Construction Trades Council of Westchester & Putnam Counties. on projects of $5 million or more in December 2017. That program expired and was not renewed. The program had also established an apprenticeship program jointly run by the city and the Building and Construction Trades Council.
In response, more than 100 members of the building trades staged a protest at Yonkers City Hall against the decision by the Yonkers Industrial Development Agency and its chairman Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano not to renew the workforce rules requirement with the YIDA.
In his defense, Mayor Spano stated the following: “For the past year, Yonkers required union labor on all major development projects we assist. This experiment failed because the union leadership used it as an excuse to increase prices rather than promote jobs,” Mayor Spano charged in his statement. “As a result, developers stayed away and the pipeline of new projects is empty.”
The Building and Construction Trades Council of Westchester & Putnam Counties, countered by denying the mayor’s charges and said the building trades offered a 20% discount on all project work.
The question still remains, will Yonkers construction workers be hired to do the work at a fair rate. Were Yonkers construction workers hired to build the Lionsgate Studios that are about to open? Despite the initial predictions by Lionsgate that the project would generate jobs, how many Yonkers residents have been employed by Lionsgate in the process to date?
As for permanent jobs with the studio, again, the issue of union vs. non union workers remains dominant. A studio operating with an agreement with a movie union has few non union employees.
In 2001, IATSE secured agreements with Lions Gate Productions covering theatrical and television motion pictures throughout the United States and Canada.
The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, has over 60,000 members. Those members are responsible for editing, sound, camera, make up and all aspects of movie making crafts in general. The New York chapter is IATSE Local 52. That local covers the majority of movie production in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Membership is selective and based on highly skilled workers. https://www.iatselocal52.org/?zone=view_page.cfm&page=Join20Us
In 2014,IATSE Local 52, settled a discrimination suit with the then New York State Attorney General. https://www.nycppnews.com/iatse-local-52-settles-new-york-state-equal-job-opportunity/
Soon, production will begin at Lionsgate Studios in Yonkers. But where are those jobs? https://jobs.lionsgate.com/search/
Yonkers citizens have seen the bait and switch before. It comes with the territory. https://news.hamlethub.com/swyonkers/life/2291-yonkers-jail-project-reneges-on-promises
But maybe this time, the movie will have a happy ending.