SEA CLIFF VILLAGE BOARD MEETING 2.13.17
At its regular monthly meeting on February 12, the Sea Cliff Village Board appointed Michael Mandarino to the position of Superintendent of Buildings, replacing Drew Lawrence who had left the position in late December to take a job in the Village of Flower Hill.
Village Administrator Bruce Kennedy said that the village had received many resumes, and after "whittling the pool down to three highly qualified candidates, it was clear that Mr. Mandarino was the man for the position."
Mr. Mandarino had a long career working in the federal government, Mr. Kennedy said at the Village Board Conference the previous week, before moving on to the City of Glen Cove where he set up and led the code enforcement division, and most recently worked for the Village of Westbury.
The search process, Mr. Kennedy explained at the February 13 meeting, involved advertising the position through the Building Inspectors Association of Nassau County (BIANCO) and the New York State Association of City and Village Clerks, as well as on the Village website, followed by interviews with those candidates who were considered highly qualified, and then finally checking the references of Mr. Mandarino, which, he said, were "outstanding."
WRITE IN CANDIDATE FOR SC VILLAGE BOARD QUESTIONS APPROPRIATENESS OF RECENT TRUSTEE APPOINTMENT
Sea Cliff resident Joe Krupinsky, who announced in early December that he is running as a write-in candidate for the Sea Cliff Village Board, questioned the appropriateness of Mayor Edward Lieberman appointing Jeff Vitale to the seat Mr. Lieberman had vacated to become Mayor only a few months before a scheduled election for that same seat.
Mr. Krupinsky said that he greatly likes and respects Mr. Vitale and his family, but that he believes the appointment was intended to give him the advantage of incumbency going into the March election.
"How can you give Jeff a head start on this March 21st election?" he asked. He said that current Trustee Dina Epstein had worked to get elected in her own right two years ago and had earned the advantage of incumbency.
Deputy Mayor Kevin McGilloway, who was presiding over the meeting in Mayor Lieberman's absence said that the Mayor had made the appointment, as the laws of New York State allow, because he believed it was in the best interests of the Village to fill the seat.
"If you don't think it makes sense, or Jeff is the right person, then you have the right to run against or not vote for him," he said.
"Is it a fair and equitable thing with one person having a head start?" Mr. Krupinsky asked.
After the meeting adjourned, Trustee Vitale reached out to Mr. Krupinsky as he prepared to leave and thanked him for making his feelings known. Mr. Krupinsky said it was not personal, to which Mr. Vitale replied that he understood that and that he did not take his comments personally.
CONCERNS EXPRESSED OVER AIR BNB RENTAL IN SEA CLIFF
Resident Doreen McKenna who lives on 15th Avenue, reported that there is an Air BnB rental on her block and that she and many of her neighbors "are not happy about it." The rental property she said is being rented out by the tenants as an Air BnB. She continued that she and her neighbors, some of whom were also in attendance at the meeting, were wondering what could be done about the issue at the Village government level.
Trustee McGilloway said that zoning statutes are put in place "specifically to put strict controls regarding that sort of thing without impeding on the rights of property owners." The Village, he continued, needed to look into whether the property is zoned for rentals. He said he believed that statutes could be in place requiring rentals to have a minimum time requirement such as 90 days "so that you don't get the BnB flipping phenomenon."
He said that he has a summer house in Suffolk County and the local code there requires that rentals be at least for 90 days.
One of the big concerns, Ms. McKenna continued, is that those who are renting out the property as an Air BnB are renters themselves. She also said parking is an issue.
Brian Stolar said that there are zoning regulations regarding parking and the intended use of the property that may apply in this particular case.
Trustee McGilloway suggested that the residents who are concerned about the issue have a meeting with him and Mayor Lieberman to gather information and then based on that go back to the full board to discuss the possibility of writing legislation to address the issue.
Laurie Kaufman, a nearby neighbor of Ms. McKenna said that she and her neighbors had submitted a letter in July regarding the issue, and more recently sent another letter.
She wondered if there is a "tax issue" with the property being operated as business.
Another resident said that he believed that local laws require that if a property is being used as a rental, it must have parking spaces.
Another resident of 15th Avenue said that there has been a rash of car entries on the street in the vicinity of the Air BnB recently and that while nothing was taken from his car, he said it was clear it had been gone through, as was the case with some of his neighbors. He advised people to keep their cars locked at night. He said a light is out on the street and that perhaps it would help if it were repaired.
Trustee McGilloway said the village could alert the 3rd precinct of the issue and perhaps increase the number of patrols in the area.
MORE STORIES FROM THE 2.13.17 SEA CLIFF VILLAGE BOARD MEETING
WATER BILL BLUES
Sea Cliff resident Douglas Behrman asked the Board whether there was anything the village could do about addressing the sharp increases in charges levied by New York American Water, the for-profit corporation that services the Sea Cliff Water district. Not only is there the $320 annual surcharge that was approved by the Public Service Commission (PSC) recently, explained Mr. Behrman, but the company is also seeking permission from the PSC to raise another $3 million through additional rate increases, as well as approval from the town of Oyster Bay for a permit application to construct a $5 million water tower, the cost of which will be passed onto ratepayers.
"What, if anything can the Village do?" he asked. "This is going to impact us for many years to come." He expressed concern about the many senior citizens in the community who he said are going to be severely impacted by the increases.
Village attorney Brian Stolar said that the Village has had discussions with New York American Water in an effort to limit the impact of the water company's tax increases on village residents, but that there "is very very very little that we can accomplish on our own."
Village Administrator Bruce Kennedy offered his thoughts saying that there are currently efforts to pressure the legislature to make utility properties tax exempt. He said the assessment on water company properties had increased five-fold in recent years and that while that took pressure off other businesses in the Village (which for the village assessment are in the same tax class - unlike for the county which has a separate utility class), they filed a tax grievance with the PSC which allowed for the surcharge. He continued that one way to address the issue would be to take the properties off of the tax rolls.
Trustee McGilloway said a few minutes later that tht could be "a zero sum game" as those taxes would have to be paid by someone else.
Mr. Kennedy said that New York American Water was also considering seeking a merger between the Sea Cliff Water District and the Merrick Water District, which would spread out the cost to customers. But, he continued, if there's a "disaster on the South Shore like Sandy, then we can hang for it."
Trustee McGilloway encouraged Mr. Behrman and others who are concerned about the issue to write their state representatives and to go to Public Service Commission hearings to make their voices heard.
RESIDENT REQUESTS THAT VILLAGE TAX ASSESSMENT CHALLENGE INFORMATION BE BETTER ADVERTISED
Resident Tim Madden (also author of this piece) said that he had recently read in Newsday an analsysis of the property tax assessment challenge system in Nassau County that showed that over the past seven years $1.7 billion in the property tax burden had been shifted from the 61% who grieve their taxes onto the 39% who don't.
Mr. Madden said it was an unfair process that allowed those "in the know" to reduce their tax burden while increasing that of those who are "not in the know" - usually the most vulnerable in society such as the elderly and the working poor who are often just scraping by to afford their homes.
He asked how the village's tax assessment challenge procedures worked, and suggested that more information be given to residents to avoid what has happened at the County level from happening at the Village level.
Trustee McGilloway replied that he believed the information was publicized in Village Hall and in the bulletin that goes out quarterly.*
Village Administrator Bruce Kennedy said that tax rolls are published on the Village website on February 1 and that anyone who wants to grieve their taxes has until February 21 to do so.
Describing the assessment challenge procedures in the Village, Mr. Kennedy said that the Village's Assessment Review Commission, made up of volunteers from the community who are appointed by the Mayor, review the challenges and can recommend that the assessment on a property be lowered. For those assessments that are not modified, the grievance proceeds to the county where the challenge is heard by "a referee."
The village last year, he said, had 60 residential challenges, and of those the board suggested two be modified. The other 58 went to the county, and of those, three saw a reduction in their assessed value.
Mr. Kennedy said that the county assessments are often "ridiculous" as they don't reflect actual market price and as a result can often be significantly below the village assessment. The assessed value, he said, should be what the market value is.
"The Village Assessment roll is right on and that was proven by all the challenges we won last year," he said.
Trustee McGilloway said that it seems the speaker's point is "what can we do to make sure everybody knows about this process?"
Mr. Madden said that the deadline for filing grievances are not on the village calendar, and that while the tentative tax rolls are posted, there is no information on the website regarding how to challenge an assessment.
The tax grievance information was posted on the village website within a few days after the Monday meeting, with a link to the appropriate form.
*(Editor's Note - While a notice did appear in the most recent Sea Cliff Village Bulletin (December) publicizing when taxes were due, there was no information concerning how or when to challenge one's assessment.