Column: Giving thanks

Sports Editor Mike Smith loves covering fall sports. He’s just happy the winter season is beginning before the weather starts to turn.  Photo/Mike Smith

Sports Editor Mike Smith loves covering fall sports. He’s just happy the winter season is beginning before the weather starts to turn.
Photo/Mike Smith

As families all over the nation get together on Thursday to celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s only fitting that I pause and give thanks as well; mainly for the fact that the fall season is finally over.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love working during autumn. Between the elite field hockey squads in our area and all the football action you can shake a stick at, I’m never at a loss for exciting athletic activity to cover in November.

But sometimes, it just gets too darn cold.

I was lucky this fall. Regardless of whether New Rochelle and Tuckahoe won or lost last weekend, I was done with outdoor coverage (the state football championships are played in the Syracuse Carrier Dome) for the year, and I escaped relatively unscathed. We’ve had some pretty decent weather over the last few weeks and for a guy who spends most of his weekends standing on some field with a camera, it’s been a blessing.

But that hasn’t always been the case.

There have been times during my tenure here when I think I deserved some hazard pay at the very least. Sure, tweeting doesn’t sound dangerous to the average person, but when frostbite is imminent, it’s a different story entirely.

With December approaching, Sports Editor Mike Smith is celebrating the end to another exciting fall season. Photo/Bobby Begun

With December approaching, Sports Editor Mike Smith is celebrating the end to another exciting fall season. Photo/Bobby Begun

I can remember a few years back, I covered a Syracuse-bound New Rochelle team in the state semis on a Saturday night up in Kingston. It couldn’t have been more than 20 degrees outside, with howling wind biting through each of the roughly 17 layers that I had on.

I’m not kidding; I was wearing so many shirts, it looked like I had donned one of those inflatable sumo wrestling outfits. And still, it did no good. It took the entirety of my hour-and-a-half drive back home, with the heat in my car pumping, to raise my body temperature back up to something
approaching normal.

This year, in comparison, I could have covered these games wearing Bermuda shorts and sandals.

But just because the weather has been mild so far, it doesn’t mean I expect it to continue. So with winter on the horizon, the freezing temperatures, the ice, and the snow, I’m going to be glad to be inside cozy gyms, doing my job.

Now if I can just get them to turn the thermostat up at the Hommocks Ice Rink, I’ll be set till April.


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Column: More on property reassessment

Last week’s column on reassessment sparked even more conversation on the subject, worthy of a second column explaining additional intricacies of the process.

Though New York state agencies strongly urge every municipality to reassess, this is another of the many unfunded mandates. Cities and towns receive pennies on the dollar and villages are ineligible for any state aid. Leaving 100 percent of the costs to communities sends a very contradictory message.

Thankfully, since our post-2007 property valuations were so accurate, our certioraris, grievances and small claims proceedings dropped exponentially, resulting in a recouping of our outlay for the revaluation in only three years—a great return on investment. In contrast, other Westchester communities commonly bond for tax settlements as their successful grievance awards are in the hundreds.

Our numbers were so accurate and thus fair only because our residents cooperated and opened their doors to the valuators. More than 90 percent of our residents—a record—allowed interior inspections.

We did something that I believe was key to our success. Our inspectors were instructed to view the property for value and not simultaneously look for unpermitted improvements or missing Certificates of Occupancy. Undocumented improvements were uncoupled with the valuation process because the goal of revaluation is to achieve accurate valuation and with it tax equity, and not be a punitive tool.

Our only regret was something we thought of post-revaluation. In retrospect, we should have also declared the valuation period as one of amnesty for all unpermitted work and offered residents overdue permits at the regular price structure. As it stands, when unpermitted work and missing C of O’s are discovered at the time one chooses to sell, permit costs are doubled and tripled because of the post facto review.

A problem in other communities that we thankfully did not encounter was the discovery of illegal subdivisions of houses. In these cases, a municipality cannot turn a blind eye to possible safety and fire violations.

There is no mathematical formula that an assessor uses to arrive at valuations; fireplaces are not numerically worth “X,” bathrooms “X x 2,” etc.

It is a valuation of the whole with some subjectivity in the equation. Is the house in good condition? Roof? Brick work? Is the kitchen outdated? Does the basement have water marks? Is the property level usable? Do the bathrooms need remodeling? Some features can also be a plus or a minus. Swimming pools and corner lots come to mind. If a pool is too close to doors, or not properly fenced, it can be a negative. If a corner house has two beautiful “front” facades that is a plus; if it’s on a noisy congested corner, it is a negative.

It is also important to note that sales price is a major indicator of value, but it does not always translate into market value. For example, a family estate may want a quick sale of a home that was purchased decades ago and will accept a low value since the profit margin is so high anyway. A corporation may own a home and want to divest quickly when an executive is transferred. Conversely, bidding wars on unique houses may result in the final buyer overpaying.

Making an improvement, large or small, to one’s home is not a legal loophole for an assessor to raise a home to full market value.

For example, if an assessor believes a home is under-assessed by say $200,000 and no townwide reassessment is contemplated, he or she cannot use the value of a new bathroom to raise the assessment to market value. Only the value of the bathroom itself may be added. In essence, a building permit is not an opening to revalue an entire home.

Even though single-family homeowners pay the lion’s share of property taxes in almost every Westchester community, it is not wise to try to offload taxes on the commercial businesses when the businesses are not large corporate entities, but rather mom and pop operations.

Since merchants, landlords and building owners cannot avail themselves of the public school system because the rule for school eligibility in New York state is domicile, not taxable property, they will never add to the school population.

Since increased taxes are part of the cost of doing business, they have to be absorbed in some way, most often in product cost.

If merchants can’t stay competitive, stores close, our share of the county sales tax revenue decreases and empty store fronts contribute to the diminution of property values.

All tax grievances in Bronxville come before an impartial nonpartisan board of village residents, who often have an expertise in finance, real estate or property valuation. Elected officials have no role in property valuation.

Since almost all village homes have received interior inspections, visits are only made by the assessor to value building improvements.

Our tax roll stays current by constant update of values based on real estate sales coupled with computer modeling and exterior inspections. This plan was approved by the appropriate state agencies and valuation professionals.

Letter: Re-elect Dennis Winter for fire commissioner



To the Editor,

On Dec. 8, Dennis Winter will be running for re-election to the Town of Eastchester Board of Fire Commissioners. Dennis has served as the board’s chairman for the last three years and, under his leadership, the board has achieved many significant accomplishments. These have included:

• The adoption of a 2016 budget with no increase to the current $16.5 million dollar property tax levy.

• The reduction of the fire district property tax levy in 2015.

• Major restorations at two district firehouses.

• An increase in the district’s insurance service office rating, placing the fire district within the top 2 percentile of fire departments nationwide. This rating should result in lower insurance premiums for homeowners within the Eastchester Fire District.

• The restructure of the district’s administrative office and the appointment of a new treasurer and auditor.

I believe the fire district election is especially important this year and I encourage you to vote for Dennis on Tuesday, Dec. 8. His opponent is Cara Piliero, the former district treasurer, whom the board placed on administrative leave in 2013 after discovery of serious accounting irregularities. The board’s investigation of these irregularities found that as treasurer, Piliero billed health insurance premiums to some but not all of the retired firefighters required to pay such premiums, thus costing the fire district an estimated $800,000 in uncollected premiums, and that she failed to bill two fire commissioners who had previously been firefighters for their percentage of health insurance costs, as required. She also paid one retired firefighter an extra $235,200 in disability payments over a 13-year span, and it was found that the QuickBooks records were improperly maintained. Despite this history, Piliero now seeks election to the Eastchester Board of Fire Commissioners.

Dennis is committed to the safety of this community and the sustainability of the Eastchester Fire District. His leadership has been forward thinking, well informed, vigilant and transparent. He has worked hard to make the fire district accountable to Eastchester taxpayers.

Dennis’s value to the district has been recognized by many, and particularly by those who have had the opportunity to work closely with him. He has been endorsed by three of his fellow commissioners and the chief of department, Michael Grogan.

Your vote is critically important in this year’s election.


Peter Incledon,

Eastchester fire commissioner 

Letter: Thank you to The Community Fund



To the Editor,

The Senior Citizens Council would like to wholeheartedly thank The Community Fund of Bronxville, Eastchester and Tuckahoe for its continued generous support of Bronxville and Tuckahoe senior citizens.

We know that the best way to keep our many seniors healthy and vigorous and engaged in the community is to provide regular activities that promote socialization, physical exercise and intellectual stimulation. The Community Fund has long recognized this need, and over this past year has helped fund programs including bridge, tai chi and exercise for our Bronxville and Tuckahoe senior citizens. These wonderful programs have been very popular—serving more than 500 seniors at our two centers—and they have attracted new members to both centers. The success of these programs is due in large measure to the loyal support of The Community Fund.

During this holiday season, please give generously to The Community Fund’s annual drive so that vital programs like ours can continue to serve the needs of the community we love. Contributions may be made online at or by calling 337-8808.


Barbara Dimpel,
Senior Citizens Council

Karla Hay Diserens,
Bronxville Senior Citizens


Jennifer Vetromile,
Tuckahoe Senior Citizens


Tuckahoe appoints Albano as superintendent



Carl Albano, currently assistant superintendent for the Tuckahoe Union Free School District, will take the reins as superintendent on Aug. 1, 2016. Photo courtesy Lauren Treuel

Carl Albano, currently assistant superintendent for the Tuckahoe Union Free School District, will take the reins as superintendent on Aug. 1, 2016. Photo courtesy Lauren Treuel

By Sarah Varney
The Tuckahoe Board of Education has announced the appointment of Carl Albano, currently assistant superintendent of the school district, to superintendent starting on Aug. 1, 2016. Albano has worked as an administrator in Tuckahoe for 13 years. 

Albano was principal of Tuckahoe Middle School for nine years and has been assistant superintendent since 2012. He was assistant principal at Concord Road Elementary School in Ardsley from 2000 to 2003.

Albany, 47, will be paid a salary of $230,000 per year as superintendent.

“I’m very excited,” he told the Review. “There are a lot of challenges, but I’m excited.”

Being familiar with the district will help Albano as he transitions into the new role.

“I have a lot of advantages because I was at the middle school as principal and then as assistant superintendent here at the high school,” he said.

The Tuckahoe Union Free School District has an annual budget of approximately $32 million and a student body of 1,100. Per capita cost per student is $26,888.

“[Albano] has great experience at all three levels: elementary, middle school and high school, and being an internal candidate, he knows the culture of the district,” Tuckahoe High School Principal Bart Linehan said. Albano is the first internal superintendent hire in 20 years, Linehan added.

Over the last five years, the Tuckahoe school district has experienced some tumult around the position of superintendent. Interim Superintendent Dr. Edward Reilly served for a year until the district hired Dr. Barbara Nuzzi in September 2013. She resigned on Sept. 1 this year and was replaced by Dr. Charles Wilson, who is currently running the district, as interim superintendent.

Wilson will show Albano the ropes until his contract ends on July 30, 2016. Wilson has 14 years of experience as a school superintendent over his 42-year-long career.

Wilson commented that with the state’s 2 percent tax cap and the burden of unfunded mandates, turnover for superintendents in the Hudson Valley is high.

During his tenure as assistant superintendent, Albano has also served as head of curriculum and instruction and head of the special education program.

Albano has played an instrumental role in the special education department over the last four years, Wilson said. Bringing students back into the district to receive services and avoiding busing them out to other programs is one improvement Albano is responsible for facilitating. Albano has also increased the inclusion of special education students into mainstream classrooms, provided more training for mainstream teachers and streamlined the special education program’s assessment process, according to Wilson.

Principal Linehan recently accepted a $50,000 grant to the school district given by the New York State Education Department in recognition of its achievement in elevating special education students’ performance on state-standardized testing to the point that there are no “significant gaps” between the scores of the two groups.

One of Albano’s first tasks will be to help shepherd a search to replace Jim Reese, assistant superintendent for business, who will retire at the end of this school year.

Tuckahoe Board of Education President Dr. Julio Urbina could not be reached for comment as of press time.



Save the Sound adds to county lawsuit

Piggybacking off a lawsuit filed in August, environmental nonprofit Save the Sound has decided to widen the scope of its campaign to clean up the Long Island Sound by involving 11 Westchester municipalities. File photo

Piggybacking off a lawsuit filed in August, environmental nonprofit Save the Sound has decided to widen the scope of its campaign to clean up the Long Island Sound by involving 11 Westchester municipalities. File photo

By James Pero
Adding another layer to an ongoing lawsuit with Westchester County filed in August over alleged violations of the Clean Water Act, the environmental nonprofit Save the Sound has widened the scope of its original suit to include 11 Westchester municipalities.

The suit, which includes Sound Shore municipalities like the Village of Mamaroneck and the City of Rye, claims that each of the 11 municipalities involved have been responsible for discharging raw sewage into the Long Island Sound.

The other municipalities named in the lawsuit include Rye Brook, New Rochelle, Pelham, Larchmont, the Town of Mamaroneck, Pelham Manor, Port Chester and White Plains.

Tracy Brown, the director of Save the Sound’s Western programs, said that leaking and degraded sewer lines are responsible for the alarmingly high levels of bacterial contamination found throughout the waterways in Westchester County.

“Because of old, leaking and poorly-maintained sewer pipes, Westchester beaches are closed after rain, we’re prohibited from harvesting clams or oysters in our local bays and harbors, and we’re at risk for waterborne illnesses,” she said in a released statement.

Sewage runoff resulting from porous pipes which leaks raw sewage into the ground, as well as overflows onto streets following heavy rain, has been the root cause of fecal bacteria—the same bacteria found in human waste—entering into the Long Island Sound via storm water drainage, the nonprofit claims.

In Save the Sound’s 2015 report of Westchester County’s water quality, which includes 400 samples from 52 different sites, the bacterial contamination failure rate for rivers rose to 79 percent from 34 percent in 2014. Additionally, sites that would have formerly passed in dry weather now experience an overwhelming failure rate.

The lawsuit aims at spurring action by both the county and the municipalities to devise and fund a sustainable solution to help fix leaking sewer lines and mitigate ongoing contamination in the Long Island Sound, according to Save the Sound.

“The citizens of Westchester County have waited decades for effective action,” Brown said.  “Municipalities must step up efforts to find and eliminate illegal discharges of raw and partially treated sewage into Long Island Sound and its tributaries. Our goal with this lawsuit is to get all the responsible parties to the table to reach a comprehensive, long-term solution to this decades-old infrastructure problem.”

Rye City Manager Marcus Serrano and Mamaroneck Village Manager Richard Slingerland could not be reached for comment as of press time.



Tigers rough up Roscoe

Christian Pinto changes direction and outruns an Eagles player. Photos/Mike Smith

Christian Pinto changes direction and outruns an Eagles player. Photos/Mike Smith

Matt Annunziata plows through the line against Roscoe. Annunziata rushed for 98 yards in the Tigers’ win.

Matt Annunziata plows through the line against Roscoe. Annunziata rushed for 98 yards in the Tigers’ win.

Christian Pinto and Robert Kiernan converge on a Roscoe ball carrier in the state quarterfinals. Tuckahoe’s defense allowed just one first down in the first half.

Christian Pinto and Robert Kiernan converge on a Roscoe ball carrier in the state quarterfinals. Tuckahoe’s defense allowed just one first down in the first half.

Chris Corrado breaks a run against Roscoe on Nov. 14. Corrado rushed for 128 yards and three scores en route to winning MVP honors in Tuckahoe’s 35-21 win over the Eagles.

Chris Corrado breaks a run against Roscoe on Nov. 14. Corrado rushed for 128 yards and three scores en route to winning MVP honors in Tuckahoe’s 35-21 win over the Eagles.

Tuckahoe may have been idle for 14 days following its Section I title win over Haldane, but when the Tigers took the field against Roscoe on Nov. 14, they didn’t wait too long to pick up right where they left off.

With a dominant 35-21 win over the Eagles on Saturday, the Tigers now find themselves in the midst of their first winning streak of the season and just one win away from a trip to the state finals.

As expected, Tuckahoe’s speed proved to be the difference-maker from the outset. On the Tigers’ opening drive, senior running back Chris Corrado broke a 37-yard touchdown run for the game’s first score, a play that would set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.

Corrado would finish with 128 yards on the ground and three rushing touchdowns as the Tigers scored on their first five offensive series to amass a 35-7 halftime lead that all but spelled the end for Roscoe.

“We didn’t know what to expect, but we knew their secondary was softer than most,” said Corrado, who earned the game’s MVP honors. “Really, we just hit the holes and once the holes opened up, we went right through.”

Although Roscoe was able to make the score respectable in the second half, scoring a couple of late touchdowns to turn the contest into a two-possession game, most of the Eagles’ success came against Tuckahoe’s backups, who entered the game en masse in the third quarter.

“It was probably midway through the second quarter when we started subbing guys in,” Tuckahoe coach Tom Itri said. “Later in the game it got a bit too uncomfortable, but it was good experience for our younger guys, not just for this year, but
going forward.”

The Tigers’ starters dominated every facet of the game, limiting the Eagles to just one first down before the half. The success of Corrado and quarterback Matt Annunziata, who rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown, stemmed from the work done up front by the Tuckahoe offensive line.

Joshua Sanz, who was tabbed the game’s top lineman, said that going against the larger Roscoe team wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for the Tigers.

“We approached it like every other game because we’re always the smaller team,” Sanz said. “We just stayed low and stayed on our blocks.”

At 3-6, the Tigers have won their last two games and seem to be finding their stride in the postseason. They need just one more win to reach the Class D state title game, but it won’t come easy. Next up for Tuckahoe is Section VII champ Ticonderoga (10-1), which is also enjoying a dominant stretch. In their last two games, the Sentinels beat Section X Tupper Lake and Section II Whitehall by a combined score of 82-0.

For the Tigers, who played against a tough Class C schedule all year, it will just be business as usual.

“We wanted to play a tough regular season schedule so we could get to this point and push through,” Sanz said. “We’ve been playing really good and we want to keep that going.”

Tuckahoe and Ticonderoga will square off on Nov. 20 at Dietz Stadium in Kingston. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.



Column: Fantasy wars

Sports Editor Mike Smith enjoys playing fantasy football. He’s just not sure about the allure of daily fantasy. Contributed photo

Sports Editor Mike Smith enjoys playing fantasy football. He’s just not sure about the allure of daily fantasy. Contributed photo

I’ll be honest. As much as I love managing my pretend football teams, I’ve never delved into the world of daily fantasy sports, and given the last few weeks that daily fantasy has had in the press—and the courts—I don’t really feel like I’m missing out.

Last week, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched an assault against DraftKings and FanDuel, the two preeminent daily fantasy sports sites that seem to run major TV spots every 30 seconds, on the grounds that both sites traffic in illegal sports betting. Now, I don’t hold a law degree, so I can’t really offer an informed opinion on the legality of daily fantasy sports as it pertains to New York’s gambling statute, but I will say this: daily fantasy goes against everything that I think fantasy sports should be.

For me, it’s never been about the money. Don’t get me wrong; winning money is great. It would be even better if I could manage a top three finish in my yearly fantasy league—something I haven’t been able to do in about six years.

My goal is for fantasy to simply augment my football-watching experience. Sometimes, you need a reason to watch the Bucs play the Jaguars on a random Thursday night. Having Doug Martin in your starting lineup seems like as good a reason as any to tune in.

But, at least for me, it doesn’t matter if Martin rushes for 130 yards and a touchdown if I can’t talk a little smack to the guy I’m playing who decided to roll the dice with Toby Gerhart.

Playing against your friends—and letting them know about all their shortcomings, both as a person and a general manager—is the true allure of fantasy sports. One of the highlights of my week is, without fail, the Tuesday morning leaguewide email we get from the GM of the first-place “Magnum TY” squad, which points out, in great detail, all the ways that his opponent failed to put the best team possible on the field. People get mad, sure, but that’s part of the fun.

But for daily fantasy, playing against a nameless, faceless horde, it just doesn’t seem to do it for me.

Just look at the people who “win big” playing DraftKings and FanDuel; the people who win consistently aren’t your garden variety football fans. They’re more akin to day-traders, with multiple computers running complicated algorithms to determine, down to the nearest decimal point, how many yards-after-catch James White will accrue against a 3-4 defense.

That’s not fun; that’s a job.

Ultimately, I don’t care what decision the courts make on the daily fantasy front. Whether or not these sites continue to operate will have very little bearing on how I choose to take in my football on the weekend.

I just wish they’d do something about those darn commercials.


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Column: Anne Hutchinson’s story comes to an end

A depiction of the death of Anne Hutchinson and some of her family. Photo courtesy Richard Forliano

A depiction of the death of Anne Hutchinson and some of her family. Photo courtesy Richard Forliano

With George Pietarinen, author of “Anne Hutchinson,  A Puritan Woman of Courage.”
This is the fourth in a series of articles on the Colonial and Revolutionary History of Eastchester.

The dominance of religious belief in 17th century America is very difficult for people today to comprehend. Patricia Bonomi, a prominent historian of that period, stresses that at this time, “In city, village and countryside, the idiom of religion penetrated all discourse, underlay all thought, marked all observances, and gave meaning to every public and private crisis.” A person’s faith “gave a tone to everything they did in their collective and communal capacity.”

Especially in colonial New England, religion ruled. From its very inception, the Massachusetts Bay Colony was torn apart by the disarray within the Puritan establishment. Individuals like Anne Hutchinson, Thomas Hooker and Roger Williams gained their followings because of the lack of trained ministers, leading to intense debate and dissension.

Anne Hutchinson was only a resident in Puritan Boston for four years when she was put on trial for heresy. After a disruptive trial, Hutchinson and some members of her family were banished from the Massachusetts Bay into the Puritan wilderness. Anne had been excommunicated from the church, and was cast into eternal damnation. During a six-day-long April snowstorm, Anne and her children made the long and arduous journey to join her husband in Rhode Island.

In Rhode Island, Roger Williams established a colony that served as a refuge for people persecuted for their religious beliefs. There was a saying that if a person was too good for Massachusetts, he went to Connecticut; if he was too bad, he went to Rhode Island. Thus, Rhode Island was referred to as the Isle of Errors.

Initially, her stay in Rhode Island starting in 1638 added to her sadness. Ten months after her banishment, she suffered a terrible miscarriage. The governor of Massachusetts Bay, John Winthrop, saw this tragedy as divine retribution, validating her exile. But Winthrop still wanted Anne to recant and sent three emissaries to Rhode Island to exact a confession. Anne’s reply was swift and decisive. She referred to the church of Boston as “the whore and strumpet of Boston, but no church of Christ.”

It is said that Anne preached more in Rhode Island than she had in Boston. And then, tragedy struck again. The great love of her life, her husband Will Hutchinson, passed away. Will, who always stood by his wife, declared, “I do think of her as dear saint and servant of God.”

Anne was now in a precarious position. She feared that Massachusetts would take over Rhode Island and persecute her anew. Her last recorded revelation was that the Lord had prepared a city of refuge in what is today the Bronx in New York City, then called New Amsterdam. Within eight years, she had left England, then Boston, and now without her beloved husband to support her, Anne and her family were on the move again.

William Kieft, the Dutch governor of New Netherland whose jurisdiction she fell under, had a contentious relationship with the Native Americans in this area. He orchestrated vicious attacks on local tribes that precipitated Kieft’s War that raged from 1643 to 1645. When Hutchinson and her party showed up in Kieft’s domain, he placed them in a no man’s land at the height of the troubles. Less than a year after her arrival, the 52-year-old woman, six of her children and nine others perished in a Native American attack.

After the burning of her house, only her 9-year-old daughter, Susanna, survived. She lived as a prisoner of the Lenape Native American tribe for a number of years. The Dutch government negotiated for her release and she reluctantly agreed to return to her family. Susanna had forgotten her own language and all her friends. Later, Susanna married John Cole, moved to Rhode Island, had 11 children, and lived to the age of 80. In addition to Susanna, Anne Hutchinson was survived by five children who had remained behind. Eventually there were more than 30 grandchildren.

One of the sons who remained in Boston sired a line of powerful political figures including Thomas Hutchinson, royal governor of Massachusetts, during the outbreak of the American Revolution. Presidents across the political spectrum can trace their lineage back to Anne: FDR was a sixth-great grandson. George H. Bush is a ninth great grand-grandson, and George W. Bush a 10th great-grandson.

The exact location of Anne’s settlement is in dispute. Based on the records of the Town of Eastchester and other historical accounts, Anne lived on the west side of the Hutchinson River in the vicinity of Co-op City. And her legacy lives on.

Her memory survives not simply because a river, parkway and three elementary schools bear her name, or because Eastchester was settled at the site of her house. Her courageous resistance to unjust authority and unmatched brilliance in defending her beliefs despite dire consequences place Anne Hutchinson at the forefront of great women in American history.


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Column: On property values and local control

Property revaluation, completed in our village in 2007, has been recently undertaken by nearby communities including Mamaroneck and Scarsdale. It is also on the drawing board in Yonkers for the upcoming fiscal year and was the deciding issue in the recent Ossining election. Residents there voted in the slate committed to continuing the revaluation that was already underway. Our neighbors in Eastchester have not revalued in more than 50 years, and Mount Vernon holds the record for a revaluation last done in 1898.

The above municipal initiatives are required because New York state leaves the process in local control. Not even our county will commit to a Westchesterwide property revaluation, and legislation at the state level to do the same has died many times. It reached the governor’s desk once but was vetoed by then-Gov. Pataki.

By contrast, Connecticut requires revaluation every five years and Massachusetts every three years regardless of which party is in office, taking it completely out of the political realm. Florida has a very interesting valuation law, nicknamed “Welcome Stranger,” as the property assessment is immediately tagged at whatever the latest buyer was willing to pay at the time of closing.

Traditionally, New York politicians have shied away from undertaking the process because it has always been considered a career-killer.

The reason why is that statistically the process most often results in one-third of the property values increasing and thus taxes going up; another third staying flat and the remaining third receiving a decrease. So after an arduous and often contentious process, potentially 66 percent of the voting public may be unhappy with the outcome, certainly not a career-enhancer.

The process is nuanced, esoteric and more an art than a science, and therefore, many misconceptions still exist around valuation methods and the role of government and the property owner.

The following topics are issues that frequently cause misunderstanding or need explanation:

Local governments have no control over the taxation formula for co-ops. It is governed by state law. Co-ops are valued on a stream of income or comparable rental approach versus the market value formula used for single-family homes. The genesis for this hybrid method grew out of the depressed housing market in New York City in the early ‘70s, causing lawmakers to fear entire buildings would be abandoned by their owners due to unprofitability. To encourage conversion from apartment units to homeownership, the co-op “discount” proved the incentive.

In his former job, our Village Assessor Gerry Iagallo actually brought an early lawsuit in the mid-1980s challenging the co-op law’s ambiguity and equity, but was unsuccessful as have all judicial and legislative attempts that have followed. In essence, the co-op method of taxation has been with us almost 50 years.

Under-assessed homes cannot have their values increased unless a full revaluation is undertaken so they often remain undervalued for decades. The grievance process can only serve to lower assessments. In a village, by state law, there is only one opportunity to “grieve” a perceived inaccurate assessment. This occurs on the third Tuesday of February, with applications for grievance available by Feb. 1.

A revaluation is only a snapshot at one moment in time and will become “old” or stale almost immediately, unless constantly readjusted to reflect market changes, which the village does assiduously.

Historically speaking, at the time of the village’s last reassessment in 1962, the homes on the Hilltop were in disrepair and true “white elephants” in terms of resale value, versus the brand new split-level homes with new appliances and family rooms. Hence, Hilltop homes were considered under-assessed and 1960s homes over-assessed in the prism of the 2007 value determinations.

Re-assessment never generates additional income due to value changes. It simply changes the size of the slices in the community “pie” to reflect equity. School boards and village boards set taxes based on operating expenses divided equally by the net worth of all real estate taxes. The assessor has no role in setting or collecting taxes.

In Bronxville, the total amount exempted from taxation due to all forms of partially-exempt property, together with fully-exempt property represent 19.9 percent of all taxable value. The impact on a single-family home worth approximately $2 million is: village and school taxes with exempt property fully taxable: $27,676; village and school taxes with exempt property not fully taxable: $33,563, creating a difference of $5,887.

By law, due to their education and experience, assessors receive the legal presumption that his or her valuation number is correct until proven inaccurate. It is a shifting of the traditional burden of proof. That being said, the process is not designed to be adversarial; rather, the parties should compromise or litigate if necessary with equity as the only goal and residents are entitled to a full explanation by an assessor for the reasons behind a valuation.

Property taxes ae not based on the highest and best use of the property (the use representing the greatest return of the real estate). Rather, property tax is based on the actual use (even though the property is not being used to its full potential) as of the appropriate legal Valuation Date in a given community.

Ultimately, fairness dictates that the process be undertaken to address the inequities in antiquated tax rolls. Property values are the only drivers of local taxes and if this unpinning is inherently unfair, it affects the entire integrity of a government.