Hempstead Village might revoke tax-break deal

Tonya Addison, 48, left, and Evelyn Davis, 64, Tonya Addison, 48, left, and Evelyn Davis, 64, right, tenants at Rivoli Redevelopment Company's 40-44 W. Columbia St. property in Hempstead, have complained of many building violations. (May 2, 2013). Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

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Hempstead Village officials are considering revoking a tax-break deal worth more than $100,000 a year -- an action they say would be a first for the 160-year-old village.

Officials say they are seeking to cancel the deal because its recipient, an apartment building owner, hasn't addressed tenants' complaints about living conditions, security and drug activity.

Terminating the deal is part of a general strategy of getting tougher on those who receive tax breaks, said officials, who long have complained about Hempstead's weak tax base. Properties comprising nearly a third of the village's assessed value do not have to pay any taxes.

Numerous tenants of Rivoli House, at 40-44 W. Columbia St., have complained to village officials about a lack of heat or hot water, rodents, and a nonfunctioning intercom and buzzer system. They also say there are not enough security guards, broken security cameras, a parking lot without sufficient lighting, and drinking, smoking and drug activity in the building's staircases and rooftop.

"There is a lot of drug activity in the building. We don't know if they are tenants or outsiders," said Tonya Addison, 48, who has lived in a one-bedroom apartment for eight months, adding that management began fixing cameras on Thursday.

A village board public hearing will be held Tuesday at 6 p.m. on rescinding the payments-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement made in 2003 with Garden City-based Rivoli Redevelopment Co. LLC, which owns the 111-unit building. Rivoli paid $56,250 this fiscal year, but would have had to pay $171,875 if it did not have the tax break, a difference of $115,625, Mayor Wayne J. Hall Sr. said.

"We gave them a PILOT so they could fix the building and not have the complaints," said Hall, adding that the village decided not to cancel the PILOT in 2010 when Rivoli defaulted on tax payments. "Why are we giving you a tax break and you are not doing what you have to do?"

In the past 16 months, village police have responded to 88 calls at the property about incidents ranging from disorderly conduct to harassment and theft. Building inspectors cited Rivoli for about a dozen violations for no heat and hot water in 2012, village officials said.

"They should lose the PILOT," said tenant Evelyn Davis, 64, who has lived in a one-bedroom apartment for 14 years and pays $1,044 a month. "Rivoli is getting that tax break, but at the same time they're not making repairs. We're keeping our end of the bargain by paying rent."

Davis and other tenants claim services deteriorated after June 2010, when Manhattan-based Related Management Co. took over management responsibilities from Sheldrake Organization Inc. But Rivoli attorney Michael Faultischek, of Uniondale, said there is full-time security and a superintendent on the premises. He added they have no records of complaints.

"Any issues that arise are addressed promptly," Faultischek said in a statement. "We trust the board will thoroughly investigate the allegations and that it will not take any action that would be adverse to the operations of the property and its tenants."

 

RIVOLI HOUSE

 

Location: 1.12 acres at 40-44 W. Columbia St., Hempstead Village

Built: 1997 (opened 1998)

Building: 5 floors, 111 apartment units

Property owner: Rivoli Redevelopment Co. LLC

Property manager: Related Management Co.

Source: Rivoli Redevelopment Company; Village of Hempstead

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