During the presentation at the Elks Lodge on May 28th, we were reminded of the shrinking middle class, not just in Little Falls but throughout the country. Living wage jobs are getting harder to come by, and essential costs such as housing and food are skyrocketing. Mr. Casullo even boasted how many of his employees at Rock City live paycheck to paycheck (in an area that is, relatively speaking, very affordable). Rather than address the root cause of these issues, the organizations that are pushing the Reed Street (formerly known as Zaida- changed presumably due to legal issues) Project want to put a band-aid on the issue. The organizations that are pursuing the Reed Street project have said this is a for-profit endeavor and claim that it will simultaneously help Little Falls and its current residents. But these profits will primarily be funded through government tax dollars, which are paid in part by citizens of Little Falls.

The companies that are advocating for and have a financial stake in the Reed Street project- Rock City (Little Falls), Pennrose (Philadelphia), Labella and Associates (engineering firm, Rochester), and Woods Oviatt Gilman (law firm, Rochester)- have prior experience in utilizing government funds intended to help struggling Americans. According to ProPublica (https://projects.propublica.org/coronavirus/bailouts/), the aforementioned companies received the following during the Pandemic:

  • Rock City Development: $225,567 in forgiven PPP loans granted in 2020 and 2021
Pennrose Management: $5,131,282 in a forgiven PPP loan granted in 2020
  • Woods Oviatt Gilman: $4,243,000 in a forgiven PPP loan granted in 2020
  • Labella and Associates: $9,963,758 in a forgiven PPP loan granted in 2020

In total, these 4 companies who have a vested interest in the Reed Street project received nearly 20 million dollars in taxpayer subsidies when Americans were struggling to put food on the table and maintain employment. The PPP loans were intended to help businesses survive through the pandemic and maintain payroll. Many organizations had to make budget cuts and postpone investments during this period to survive without the luxury of these funds. Conveniently, Rock City Development was able to complete the construction of Rock City Centre shortly after their taxpayer funds were dispersed and forgiven. To be clear- I am not against government subsidies or programs intended to stimulate job growth or advocate for social issues, among other things. I am infuriated by the millionaire individuals and companies that continue to squeeze the working class and use their existing status to snowball their wealth through government subsidies they don’t need… All while virtue-signaling about what they are doing to give back.

The companies that support low-income project housing claim they are helping low-income earners with their endeavors. However, there is no concrete evidence or discussion on how it will impact the residents in the communities that already live and pay taxes here. Even more insulting is their attempts to receive a PILOT exemption which would significantly reduce the amount they are paying back into the tax base and the community. As a reminder, at the Elks Lodge meeting the developers announced they were seeking property tax exemptions for up to 40 years!

Little Falls is the most welcoming community I have ever lived in. We are not discriminatory against low-income residents. We want to do everything we can to empower people who want a better life for themselves and their families. I just wish the developers pushing the Reed Street Project felt the same way.

Sign the petition. Stand up for your community. Have productive and civil conversations with your elected officials. Take a stand for the working class. No Reed Street Project.

Sam Melikian
Resident of Little Falls