Letters to the Editor – Clearing Up Comments on Irvington Reassessments

To the Editor,

Regarding an article published in the April 2016 issue entitled, “Irvington Homeowners Stunned by Tyler Reassessments” by Barrett Seaman, he has his facts wrong and took all my quotes totally out of context. Mr. Seaman wrote this article trying to create class warfare where there is none and through a prism of him being a taxpayer who was unfairly reassessed at higher level and thus paying higher taxes than what he thought was fair market value.

For the record, my taxes were $18,000 when I moved into our new home in 1995. Due to out of control Village/School/Town budgets over the years, my property taxes skyrocketed. I grieved my taxes twice at the local level and lost both cases. I then took the Village/Town to court (SCAR) and won both times. Had I lost both cases, my taxes today, would be $76,000. Therefore, my taxes would have increased by $54,000 over the $18,000 base. How many residents have seen their taxes increase by $58,000? My property taxes are currently $49,000.

Mr. Seaman quoted me as saying, “ Mr. Saraniti has no sympathy for those he says have been under-taxed for years…..” That quote was inaccurate/taken totally out of context. Mr. Seaman is trying to create class warfare when there is none.

What I did say was:

1. The residents who Mr. Seaman state, “….what had been working class homes on the village’s side streets. What I said was those homeowners, who live off Main Street and who bought a home in the late 1990’s for $300,000 and paid $5,000 in property taxes have seen their property values triple to $900,000+ because of their low property taxes, currently at $10,000 – $15,000. Now that Tyler Technology has brought all properties up to 100% fair market value they are complaining about an increase in their property taxes but they don’t mention their home tripled in value. My home didn’t triple in value! In essence, I have been subsidizing these homeowners for the past 20 years!

2. Mr. Seaman states, “….there are still some who are paying well below what they would be if the real market value of their houses had been applied.” What I said and the example I stated was strictly related to condos and co-ops, “ I read a report in the media, that Town Supervisor Feiner owns a condo unit at Boulder Ridge. That subdivision a few years back won a major certiorari case against the Town. Tyler Technology assessed valuation of Feiner’s unit declined from $420,000 to $384,000. I have looked at Boulder Ridge and the units for sale were in the range of $800,000 – $900,000. Currently, there is a unit on the market for $1,000,000+. His property taxes are a mere fraction because Feiner, in an unannounced/non-publicized meeting, took a vote NOT to adopt the Homestead Act which would have taxed condos and co-ops as a residential property. Pertinent I question, why did The Hudson Independent fail to mention my example of Mr. Feiner’s tax record. It’s public knowledge? Are they afraid of a reprisal?

I know that The Hudson Independent prides itself on journalistic integrity and is in this vein that I hope they publish this letter, to set the record straight.

Thank you,
Anthony Saraniti

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Responding to Anthony Saranati’s Letter:

In a piece of over 1,200 words, two paragraphs refer to Mr. Saraniti and contain only one direct quote attributed to him: “This is what it costs to live in a place like Irvington.” I have no doubt that Mr. Saraniti spoke those words and did so in direct reference to homeowners in Irvington whose valuations had soared and were now feeling the brunt of Tyler’s projected tax increases. Moreover, the language Mr. Saraniti uses in his letter to the editor effectively reaffirms those views. I do not recall him specifying “those homeowners” as distinct from any others.

Mr. Saraniti’s assertion that he was speaking strictly about co-op and condo owners when he referred to those who are still “paying well below what they would be if the real market value of their houses had been applied” is not reflected in my notes of the conversation. Indeed, he even mentioned a specific house in Matthiessen Park that he said had been assessed far below what it actually sold for in 2015. While it is true that Mr. Saraniti also said that co-op and condo owners (including Supervisor Feiner) were paying less than comparable residential homeowners and should be taxed equally, that was not the topic of this story and was otherwise addressed in a separate story that led the paper.

As for the taxes Mr. Saraniti has paid in the past and would have paid had he not successfully grieved, I took those numbers both from my phone interview this year and from a similar interview for a story I wrote a year ago when the reassessment process was first launched. Mr. Saraniti never challenged their accuracy in that story. Indeed, they are very similar to the numbers Mr. Saraniti cites in his letter. The only variation from the figures is his 2015 tax bill, which he now states was $49,000 (in a message to the Irvington Village Board, he used $50,000). However, Greenburgh tax records show him paying just over $45,000, just as I reported.

And finally, given that my article addresses Tyler reassessments that were both over and under other credible measures of property value and involve homeowners across the socioeconomic spectrum, I am at a loss as to how my story could be construed as an attempt “to incite class warfare.” –Barrett Seaman

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