Sun, Feb 10, 2013
By Bryan Koenig
Annual property assessments in New York City can be an unpleasant experience for homeowners. A few zeroes here, a few new dollars there. Late January the following year; rinse, wash, repeat.
This year however, about two months after Hurricane Sandy slammed into the area, assessments arrived in many mailboxes that are still waterlogged or at least recently dried. And many residents aren’t too pleased. In parts of southern Brooklyn, voices are rising in ire at increased property valuations they feel didn’t take into account damage from the hurricane.
“I was shocked,” said southern Brooklynite Barbara Garofalo. A board member and homeowner in Sea Gate, a private community on the extreme southwest tip of Brooklyn, she opened her mail last week to see her home’s assessed value had been upped by $1,740. The increase was in keeping with previous years’ assessments, but the problem is that Garofalo’s entire first floor was flooded during the hurricane. The assessed cost of repairs: $70,000.
“If all was said and good and nothing happened, we had no storm, I wouldn’t even be looking at this,” she said, because she’s normally happy to see her property value going up.
The Sea Gate Association this week has received several dozens of calls from residents complaining about higher property valuations, said Community Manager Tami Maldonado. “We were pretty destroyed by the hurricane and most of our property values went up, which doesn’t really make sense,” Maldonado said. While some property valuations in Sea Gate did decline, most reports are of increases, a double whammy to Sea Gate residents, whose association dues are based on their property taxes. With its own police force, Sea Gate is one of Brooklyn’s only gated communities.
Sea Gate is not alone in its complaints. Homeowners in Manhattan Beach have also seen their assessments go up, despite massive damage from Sandy. City Councilman Michael Nelson’s office has received numerous complaints from the area about their property assessments. “The calls are starting to come in very rapidly,” said Charles Kahn, a senior consultant to Nelson.
Manhattan Beach real estate broker Jon Sobel got calls from five different people last week complaining of drastically increased property valuations, three around $80,000 and two between $400,000 and $500,000.
“It’s incredible to say that our property [value] went up,” said Ira Zalcman, president of the Manhattan Beach Community Group.
In response to complaints, the Department of Finance has extended the deadline for reporting damage from Sandy to Feb. 15 from Feb. 1, in part due to efforts by City Councilman Domenic Recchia, Jr., whose district includes Sea Gate. The deadline to challenge an assessed value with the city tax commission is March 15 for one, two and three family homes. For all other properties, the deadline to appeal is March 1. Reporting damage and filing a challenge are both necessary for Sandy-affected homeowners who feel their assessment was too high, a Department of Finance spokesman said.
The city’s tentative assessment roll for the next fiscal year released Jan. 15 showed a 3.63 percent increase in taxable property value citywide. The average property taxes on a single-family home in New York went up $153, to $4,324 this year. For two family homes, it was a $154 increase to $4,494.
According to Department of Finance spokesman Owen Stone, the city is still assessing property, with the final valuations scheduled to come out in May. Appealing could make a difference between the initial and final valuation, he said. “If we determine that there is significant damage to the property that is not taken into account from the tentative assessment roll, then there is a good chance that value will be lower,” he added.
Complaints don’t seem to be universal across southern Brooklyn. In Brighton Beach, for example, at least one neighborhood association hadn’t received any complaints. “I don’t think I’ve heard of people worried about the value,” said neighborhood association Executive Director Pat Singer.
In Sea Gate, however, it’s another story. About 800 of the predominantly middle-income community’s 860 homes were flooded. Now, community manager Maldonado is encouraging residents to start complaining about their post-Sandy tax increases.
“Every year it goes up a couple of dollars,” Sea Gate resident Garofalo said. “But you would think this year they would take into consideration and at least come out and see what happened to peoples’ property.”