Barnhart Questions Midtown Athletic Club Tax Breaks

(9/6/2019) Rachel Barnhart, the Democratic nominee for Monroe County Legislature, questions tax breaks requested by Midtown Athletic Club. COMIDA is holding a public hearing on the incentive package on Tuesday.

(Read Democrat and Chronicle coverage.)

(Read City Newspaper coverage.)

(Read News 8‘s coverage.)

(Listen to Rachel discuss issue on WXXI podcast.)

The value of the incentive package is not available on the COMIDA website, which is unacceptable. How can the public provide informed comments without knowing the details? The incentive packages are typically not available until the hearing.

Midtown Athletic Club is a luxury fitness club, which includes a spa and restaurant. Membership dues are out of reach for most Monroe County residents.

In a column about the upcoming renovations, Midtown’s Glenn William complained about construction of the new Pittsford YMCA (page 2 of Winter 2019 Spirit Magazine) and how it may harm his business. “Until recent years, my impression has always been that the Y primarily served those in need. I wonder why they are building a behemoth YMCA in an affluent suburb rather than serving a population in the more disadvantaged parts of the city, which so desperately need facilities and support. Just outside of Pittsford? Really? Pittsford? I don’t get it. What I do know is that the not-for-profit YMCA runs its business aggressively like any successful for-profit corporation. They compete with all of the other for-profit clubs in town without paying property taxes, income taxes or sales taxes like we do, which gives them an unfair advantage over the rest of us…Midtown’s multi-million dollar renovation and expansion will be financed by owners’ equity, bank loans and membership dues. And don’t get me started on the taxes we pay.”

William goes on to say the Midtown model is “high-end and full-service,” and compares the YMCA to a “Walmart” and “community center.”

What William doesn’t say is that he also expects taxpayers to finance his luxury club. Just as taxpayers shouldn’t have assisted Redd restaurant, they shouldn’t help pay for gym memberships for the affluent. It’s clear this renovation has been in the works for some time, and would happen without taxpayer assistance.

“In general, it’s bad public policy to give tax breaks to retail establishments, which don’t create new wealth. Just because a new gym opens, doesn’t mean there are more people to buy memberships. It doesn’t mean there are suddenly people with more money to spend,” Barnhart said. “Midtown Athletic Club is not adding any value to our economy by getting even fancier. It’s not taxpayers’ job to help them stay competitive, but it’s particularly offensive to expect us to help a country club-like venue.”