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Opinion

More time to Grieve in Nassau

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran cited a

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran cited a "vendor problem" for the outage. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Daily Point

Nassau tax assessment site overwhelmed

With just over 13 hours left for Nassau County residents to grieve property assessments for the 2020-2021 tax year, Nassau County had apparently set a record for its most appeals ever. And they are still coming.

But the county is extending the deadlines, because the Assessment Review Commission’s website has crashed several times over the past 24 hours.

County officials said the deadlines will now be:

  • Online until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, May 3, 2019
  • Paper submission at ARC until 4:45 p.m. on Friday, May 3, 2019 or postmarked by May 3, 2019
  • ARC customer service will be open April 30, 2019 until 7 p.m.

At 10:47 a.m. the county, which has about 424,000 properties on its tax rolls, had received 245,908 appeals.

Last year, there were 241,011 appeals, which county officials said was the most anyone could remember. There were about 216,000 appeals filed in 2017.

The county is seeking to create an accurate roll for the first time since former Ccunty Executive Edward Mangano froze the roll in 2011 and started granting wholesale reductions to nearly all who sought them. The property tax-appeal firms that made more than $500 million on such appeals since 2011 have gone all-out this year to grab as many new clients as possible.

New values mean a fresh whack at huge reductions, with the firms keeping a big slice. And there is an awareness that if County Executive Laura Curran’s plan to get the roll in order works, the days of huge paydays are numbered for the appeal firms.

The numbers tell it all: This year, 208,911 of the appeals have been filed by firms, while 36,997 have been filed by individuals.

Once the appeals are all in, the county will be moving to argue and settle as many as possible before tax rolls and millage amounts are set for the county, towns, school districts and other taxing bodies in Nassau. Settlements reached after tax bills go out will generate refunds that must be paid entirely by the county, no matter which government got the overpayment.

The hope among county officials is that this year will be the high-water mark of appeals, with property owners increasingly deciding the assigned values are fair and dropping the grieving habit.

Time will tell.

- Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

To whom it may concern

Signal Problems, a well-regarded, well-read newsletter about all things public transit that is soon to be ended by its creator Aaron Gordon, featured a series of reader questions this week.

It’s the first question in what Gordon called his own “exit interview” that stopped The Point in its tracks.

“I renew my request for an update on when the subways will get better,” the questioner wrote.

It was signed … Pat Foye.

Foye, of course, is the new chairman and chief executive of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

So why was the man ultimately in charge of the subways asking a journalist when the subways would improve?

Foye’s comment referenced a popular but discontinued feature Gordon called “In Which I Make An Educated Guess About When Things Will Get Better.” Gordon ended the feature in February when he stopped trying to predict what would happen, noting,”If we’ve learned anything over the last few years, it’s that things can always get worse.”

Foye, apparently, is an avid reader and paid subscriber of Signal Problems. Foye even owns a Signal Problems tote bag, a fundraiser for the newsletter that features artwork of a dog in a bag -- a callback to a feature of the newsletter that showed off pictures of dogs in bags on the subways, especially dogs that were often too big for the bags they were in.

And Signal Problems itself is coming to an end soon, as Gordon now has a full-time job as a journalist with Jalopnik. So, he organized his own “exit interview,” and sought reader questions.The first one he answered was Foye’s.

Foye’s request led Gordon back into the prediction business. His answer to Foye in Monday’s newsletter included an assessment of the present, saying, “The subway has gotten better … We’ve come a long, long way since the summer of 2017.”

However, Gordon is less optimistic about the long-term. “Personally, I’m not holding my breath that NYCT (New York City Transit) will be transformed into a world-class transit agency any time soon,” he wrote, outlining his concerns about whether the MTA could really change into a better-run bureaucracy.

But Gordon ended his response by throwing the ball back to Foye.

“But please, Mr. Foye, prove me wrong. I would love to be proven wrong on this one.”

Foye’s response?

“Right now, I’m laser focused on continuing the improvement in LIRR and subway on-time performance and eliminating waste and fraud at the MTA,” Foye told The Point.

Well, if he gets all that done, Foye might just prove Gordon wrong after all.

- Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Pencil Point

Both sides...

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Final Point

Operation Earth Day

It was just last week that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said that after getting a plastic bag ban included in the state budget, he didn’t “see anything specific for the rest of the session” in terms of environmental advances on that scale.

But now comes a package of bills from the State Senate and Assembly that, if approved, would add significantly to the environmental record this session. Both chambers are scheduled to vote on Tuesday on an "Earth Day” agenda. Earth Day was last week, but both chambers were out of session.

Measures include a further crackdown on trafficking of body parts of endangered animals, a bill to reduce the amount of mercury in light bulbs, a measure that would lead to a total ban on the dangerous pesticide chlorpyrifos, and a bill to ban toxic chemicals from children’s products that’s been kicking around in one form or another for years.

Add to that a constitutional amendment that would guarantee a right to clean air, clean water and a healthful environment. It requires passage by two consecutive legislatures, meaning it also would need to be approved in 2021, after which it would go to the public in a referendum that fall.

Many of the bills have been spearheaded by the chambers’ environmental conservation chairs — Long Island Democrats Todd Kaminsky in the Senate and Steve Englebright in the Assembly. Senate Republicans were an obstacle on many environmental measures but lost control of the chamber in November. The bills facing votes Tuesday would add to such advances as a ban on offshore drilling in New York waters, a program to recycle food waste statewide, a ban on the mass fishing of menhaden, and the single-use plastic bag ban.

“When no one has reaped and harvested a field for years, there’s a lot to be gained...There was lots of low-hanging fruit,” Kaminsky told The Point.

 - Michael Dobie @mwdobie

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