City Council members are calling on Albany lawmakers to amend state tax law to provide some relief to homeowners hit by Hurricane Sandy, as they could be penalized for repairing their homes without a change. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
Homeowners who decide to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy may find that they are paying for the privilege.
State property tax law treats repairs to a home in the same way it does improvements, like a deck or an addition. Which means New Yorkers looking to restore their home to the same state it was in before the storm, could see a spike in their property tax bill.
"Many of these people, their position is, 'Even if I do build, my taxes are going to go up. I can't afford it. I'm being taxed out. I'm being taxed out,'" said Brooklyn Councilman Domenic Recchia. "And that's what we in government have to stop."
The issue was raised at a City Council hearing Thursday.
On the heels of that hearing, Council Speaker Christine Quinn came out in favor of changing the law, which would require approval from Albany. She said it is the fair thing to do to distinguish between the different kinds of construction work.
"Clearly, one person is improving their property at their discretion, and the other is trying [to] restore their life and home after a devastating event outside of their control," Quinn said in a statement.
David Frankel, the city's finance commissioner, did not seem as sold on the idea of prioritizing this change in the property tax law.
"Focusing on this one issue as the most important thing, I would argue with you, or suggest to you, that there are many other things we could come up with that you might even find more significant than this," Frankel said.
The City Council is trying to take a closer look at the city's performance before, during and after Hurricane Sandy. At a separate hearing on the storm, held across the street, Harry Nespoli, the head of the Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association, blasted the city, saying it was unprepared for Hurricane Sandy.
"I worked at 9/11 with my men. This was worse than 9/11," Nespoli said. "We weren't prepared. We have to look at what we can do to prepare the city workers."
The storm may be over, but the fallout is far from finished.