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Daily Point

A troubling decline

Fred Thiele, the State Assembly member from Sag Harbor, has released the latest revenue figures for the East End’s Community Preservation Fund and they are troubling.

For the first six months of 2019, the CPF took in $38.23 million, a 23.8 percent drop from last year’s first-half haul of $50.17 million. The CPF is funded by a real estate transfer tax of 2 percent on sales in the towns of Southampton, East Hampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island and Southold.The decline in CPF means less farmland protected, less open space preserved and fewer water-quality improvement projects undertaken. But the canary-in-a-coal-mine aspect of this also is troubling.

Reduced revenues means reduced home sales, and the CPF has now registered six straight months of declining revenue compared to 2018 totals. Thiele, who has spoken to real estate attorneys and brokers across the East End, said the consensus is that blame falls on the new $10,000 cap on the federal deduction for state and local income taxes (SALT) and a reduction in the mortgage interest deductible limit from $1 million to $750,000 went into effect in 2018.

“I don’t think there’s any question that changes in the federal tax code, SALT in particular, and also the cap on mortgage interest, but primarily SALT, I think that was the trigger that basically caused buyers to think twice about continuing to pay prices that were on the upswing,” Thiele told the Point.

Thiele said the downturn, which began toward the end of 2018, is unprecedented. “The rule of thumb was always if you had a good stock market, people took their bonuses and capital gains and put it into real estate,” he said. “It’s almost automatic, and this almost defies that trend which is basically decades old.”

Thiele said that June was a relative bright spot, with its $8.8 million in revenue closer to normal, and while he cautions against making too much of one figure, he does wonder whether sellers are recalibrating and “getting a little more realistic with their prices.”

“I’m not saying this is over,” Thiele said, “but there are some signs of life out there.”

- Michael Dobie @mwdobie

Talking Point

New York takes center stage

It will be the New York debate on CNN Wednesday night, with Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and Schenectady native Andrew Yang taking the stage. 

Will any get Empire State-specific questions? On Tuesday, moderator Don Lemon cited a weekend shooting in Brooklyn in a question about gun policies. De Blasio has faced some criticism for not immediately calling that event a “mass shooting.” His spokeswoman has said he’s waiting for the NYPD to determine motive, but perhaps he’ll elaborate further in the national spotlight. 

And if Gillibrand is asked about gun control, too, perhaps she’ll once again bring up her conversion on the issue after learning about Nyasia Pryear-Yard, a teenager killed in 2009 in another Brooklyn shooting.

Home-state political junkies would love some other pointed local questions that could become national topics, say about infrastructure, but otherwise we’ll just have to evaluate their overall performances. If Gillibrand and de Blasio, who have other jobs, don’t make a splash in their second chance on the national stage, how long until the calls to come on home become unavoidable? 

- Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Debate Point

The battle continues

Tuesday night, Point subscribers were able to rate the candidates in real-time on a scale of 1 to 5 stars alongside the Newsday Editorial Board. Both groups chose Sen. Elizabeth Warren as the winner of the first night of debates, with readers awarding Warren with a total of 160 stars.

But who else did Point subscribers like during the debate? South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg came in a close second place with a total of 149 stars, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders came in a distant third place with 123 stars.

And guess what, those were the same second-place and third-place winners the editorial board picked as well.

If you missed out on the fun Tuesday night, don’t worry. You’ll have an opportunity to rate Wednesday night’s candidates along with the editorial board. Getting a scorecard is for Point newsletter subscribers only. If you want to participate, be sure to subscribe for free here.

- Michael Cusanelli and Kai Teoh @mcusanelliSB and @jkteoh  

Pencil Point

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