New York raises taxes on Sandy-hit houses

New York raises taxes on Sandy-hit houses
New York homeowners from regions most severely impaired by Hurricane Sandy have suffered damage to their homes and expensive repairs – but the city is now inflicting a heavy tax hike upon those residents, claiming their property values have risen.

“Common sense dictates their property values have fallen, if not plummeted in some cases,” Councilman Michael Nelson (D-Brooklyn) told the New York Post.

But the city claims that property values for homes in Manhattan Beach, Coney Island, Staten Island and the Rockaways have shot up – even though many of these properties were damaged in the storm and still require repairs. As a result, the city is inflicting higher taxes upon many of these residents to make up for the lost revenue from the storm – including residents whose homes remain so impaired that they have not been able to move back in.

“This is totally insensitive and heartless,” Ira Zalcman, president of the Manhattan Beach Community Group, said in the interview with the Post. “We just sustained one of the worst national disasters in our nation’s history, and now the city is delusional, claiming our property values went up.”

Zalcman said he has already received more than 30 complaints from residents about the tax increases, and he himself is a homeowner whose property tax bill will go up – probably by $200 for the fiscal year.

Nelson has called the tax hikes “heartless” and “something the city must immediately remedy.”

It raises real doubts about whether [the Finance Department] is doing enough to ensure fair and accurate assessments,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. “As New Yorkers world to rebuild their homes and lives, we cannot allow them to be hit twice.”

Even homes that were partially swept away and houses whose windows and doors are boarded shut will be subjected to the tax hikes, whose rates will be finalized in May.

Stephen Moran, vice chairman of Community Board 13, said that Hurricane Sandy left him with $300,000 worth of repairs and cannot understand how the city is justifying raising his taxes.

“How do you increase taxes for people who no longer have 100 percent of their houses remaining?” he said.

The citywide outrage has prompted the City Council to launch an investigation into the heightened property-tax assessments. One city official told the Post that these assessments were made before Sandy ravaged New York in late October, but Mayor Bloomberg on Monday defended the tax hikes and suggested that the storm did not affect property values.

“Prices continue to go up in spite of these things,” he said, despite real estate brokers claiming the opposite.

And unless property owners appeal to the city Tax Commission before March 15, many homeowners and hurricane victims will see their tax rates go up this fiscal year, thereby inflicting further costs on those already burdened with repairs.