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Homeowners Hit By Sandy Get Property Tax Relief

By Nicholas Rizzi | November 29, 2012 3:44pm | Updated on November 29, 2012 4:59pm

DONGAN HILLS — New Yorkers whose homes were severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy will receive a three-month grace period on their property taxes and will get reimbursed on some of the taxes they've already paid this year, city officials announced Thursday.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled the proposals at a Dongan Hills car dealership that is serving as a restoration center for victims of the storm. He said the plan would not solve all the problems of homeowners whose property suffered damages, but it will offer some help.

"We know that the relief [the plans will] provide won't make up for all the losses or stresses these homeowners have experienced," Bloomberg said. "We think they're the right thing to do in helping people get back on their feet."

The first proposal, which needs to be approved by the City Council, would postpone property tax payments interest-free from Jan. 1, 2013 to April 1, 2013.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the deferral would help ease the minds of some New Yorkers who worry they won't be able to pay the bill on time.

"It's going to help people," Quinn said. "It's going to take that worry out of their mind, which is big in a crisis like this, and it's also going to give them a little bit of extra money."

Officials also announced a second proposal to reimburse homeowners a portion of the property taxes already paid this year to reflect the properties' values after Hurricane Sandy. If approved by the state, homeowners would get an average rebate of $794 and more than 900 properties would be eligible.

The total rebates for residents would be about $760,000, Bloomberg said. He added that both measures would not cause any financial strain on the city or raise taxes for New Yorkers.

"These two tax reliefs taken together will provide some help for New Yorkers that really need it now," he said. "For the rest of us, it is not going to require us to change any of our strategies or raise taxes whatsoever."

The grace period would be for the more than 3,000 properties that received a red tag from the Department of Buildings — which may mean they will have to be demolished.

The average monthly property tax bill in the city is $506, Bloomberg said.

Staten Island Councilman James Oddo was credited with spearheading the tax deferment, and he said he got the idea when he was touring Midland Beach with state Senator Andrew Lanza.

They met John Toto, co-owner John & Joe Toto's restaurant, a popular spot for horseshoe players in the summer, whose home and restaurant were both destroyed by the hurricane.

"John lost his restaurant, and two structures beyond his restaurant was his home that had been destroyed," Oddo said. "In the pit in front of his building he said to [Lanza] and I a litany of challenges he has and at the end of it he said, 'On top that I have to pay $15,000 in property taxes.'"

The City Council plans to vote on the grace period Dec. 10, Quinn said. The reimbursement measure will be considered in the state legislature when it resumes in January, Bloomberg said.