Buffalo developer Nick Sinatra owes over $800k in taxes despite generous public subsidies

Nick Sinatra’s Market Arcade building, purchased from the City of Buffalo in 2014 and currently in foreclosure due to more than $150,000 in back taxes. Photo by Payton Chung

Real estate developer Nick Sinatra has been credited with spearheading a renaissance in Buffalo. Sinatra has led a number of high-profile projects in the city and accumulated an empire of properties throughout the region, with concentrations around the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and along the Elmwood Avenue corridor. Recently, Sinatra’s firm was designated by the City of Buffalo to build a large affordable housing development on Jefferson Avenue and by Kaleida Health to re-develop, along with Ellicott Development, the former Women & Children’s Hospital site.

However, despite having the financial backing of several millionaire and billionaire investors – including Congressman Chris Collins and hotel heir Karen Pritzker – Sinatra appears to be having cash-flow issues.

A PAI investigation of public records found that Sinatra owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes to both the City of Buffalo and Erie County and that several of his properties in Buffalo – including his headquarters in the historic Market Arcade building – are currently in foreclosure.

In our report published April 12, we examined tax records of 79 properties owned by 20 LLCs controlled by Sinatra & Co and found that Sinatra owes taxes on at least 42 properties totaling at least $827,382.80. Of those 42 properties, foreclosure proceedings have been initiated on 14.

A map of the properties that that Sinatra owes back taxes on is embedded below. Properties indicated in red are in foreclosure.

It is important to note that the $827,382.80 figure only includes taxes owed on the 79 Sinatra-owned properties that PAI identified by searching for the addresses of properties known to be owned by Sinatra and for the names of LLCs known to be Sinatra shell companies. It is likely that other properties that Sinatra owes back taxes on were excluded from our analysis.

Sinatra’s tax problems are coming to light after the developer has enjoyed years of public subsidies for his projects.

PAI found that Sinatra has received $1.47 million in mortgage and sales tax breaks from the Erie County Industrial Development Authority. The developer has also taken advantage of historic preservation tax credits and New York’s 485-a program, which grants large property tax exemptions to developers who convert non-residential properties into “mixed use” developments. PAI found four Sinatra properties assessed at $5.8 million that have received 485-a exemptions, and the developer has indicated that he intends to seek the exemption for upcoming projects as well.

As Sinatra begins to seek zoning variances and public subsidies for one of his highest-profile developments yet – the redevelopment of the 8-acre site former Women & Children’s Hospital site – city and county officials must decide whether they will continue to award Sinatra’s tax delinquency with more incentives and variances or hold the powerful developer to the same rules that apply to people who do not have Sinatra’s influence or access to capital.

For our full analysis, see PAI’s report “Sinatra & Company owes more than $800k in property taxes, has received nearly $1.5 million in public subsidies,” available on our website.

If you are aware of other Sinatra & Company properties that were not included in our analysis and have back taxes owed, please let us know by email at rob@littlesis.org or by phone at 716-884-1275.