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Lawmakers propose tax relief for Sandy-damaged property

Neighbors Joe Valentino, left and Chaim Lazarus survey

Neighbors Joe Valentino, left and Chaim Lazarus survey the damage to New Hampshire St. Residents of Long Beach work to recover during the aftermath of Sandy. (Nov. 4, 2012) Credit: Jeremy Bales

ALBANY -- Two Long Island state legislators say they will introduce a proposal that could lower property-tax assessments on parcels and homes damaged by superstorm Sandy.

Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) and Sen.-elect Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) said Monday that the measure would allow municipalities and school districts to lower valuations for properties hit hard by the storm. Participation by municipalities would not be mandatory.

Sweeney and Boyle said it would be unfair for property owners in such circumstances to have to pay based on pre-storm value.

"This is an impending financial disaster for property owners who have struggled with huge Sandy-related expenses, and would be faced with paying full taxes on homes that are no longer there or no longer habitable," Sweeney said in a statement.

Newsday reported recently that Long Island property owners may soon be in for another hit from Sandy: property-tax adjustments related to the storm. Property owners whose parcels weren't damaged could be affected to make up for properties whose value declined.

Under the Sweeney-Boyle proposal, only properties that suffered a loss in value of 50 percent or more could qualify. Local assessors would determine the percentage in value reduction. The legislation does not address the issue of whether assessments on other properties would have to increase in order to compensate.

A similar law was enacted last year for owners whose properties were destroyed by Tropical Storm Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, Sweeney said.

The new proposal covers counties outside New York City, which would be covered by a separate bill announced by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan).

Federal lawmakers also are promising tax relief for Sandy victims.

Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) have said they will introduce legislation that would give property owners full tax deductions for cleanup expenses, give damaged small businesses a tax credit for keeping employees and waive fees for early withdrawal from retirement plans. The bill also would temporarily relax some mortgage rules and would grant states the authority and funding to issue a slew of tax credits for individuals and businesses affected by the storm.

Nearly 40,000 Long Island households already have been approved for Federal Emergency Management Agency housing grants.

Also Monday, State Senate leaders announced a new task force that will hold hearings in the impacted areas to help determine where and how to channel disaster-relief aid and to improve storm preparedness. A hearing schedule hasn't been determined.

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