STATEN ISLAND, NY – New York City Comptroller Brad Lander and Councilwoman Kamillah Hanks (D-North Shore) sat down with members of the community for a town hall meeting on Tuesday to discuss issues related to property taxes and sanitation.

Nearly 40 people attended the event at the Staten Island Museum, including a number of local civic leaders and advocates. Lander presented the group with some key stats and relevant information on each topic, then he and Hanks opened the floor to community members to share their concerns, ask questions, and provide suggestions and feedback.

SANITATION CHALLENGES

Participants were given sheets of paper to write down their guesses for Staten Island Community District 1 (North Shore) cleanliness scores on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being best.

Invited by Lander, they held their guesses, which ranged from 50 to 80. The Comptroller then revealed the official district and city rates as judged by City Hall.

“The official City Hall Scorecard rates 97% of streets and 98% of sidewalks in Staten Island’s Community District 1 as acceptable cleanliness with citywide numbers of 94% for streets and 98% for the sidewalk,” he said.

Verbalizing what many onlookers expressed with laughter or mockery, Lander claimed “a disconnect between how New Yorkers feel about the cleanliness of their streets and sidewalks and the city’s scorecard.” .

Community members who spoke in detail about waste disposal issues or lack thereof in their neighborhoods. In some cases, the complaints were opposed to the waste problem, which is omnipresent in the borough.

A West Brighton resident said he brings a ‘senior garbage collector’ and a kitchen rubbish bag with him to collect rubbish from the pavement on his daily walks with his dog.

“I pick up at least one bag of white kitchen scraps every day,” he said.

Other attendees spoke of the city’s policy that businesses and landlords are responsible for any litter on their property and 18 inches in the street as being at their expense. They are tasked with cleaning up the relentless trash that blows onto their properties from nearby establishments, they said.

St. George resident John, who only wanted to be referred to by his first name, said he lived across from McKee High School and pointed out that the litter did not reflect a shortage of trash cans. Instead, the department has “a shortage of wastebaskets that people can use, even outside of the school itself.” He called a neighbor back from work to a DSNY summons for litter on his sidewalk, including papers that said “McKee” on them.

Fran Reali, a real estate broker and civic leader, said his small businesses are “taxed to be able to do business” between business taxes, have to pay for private sanitation and then frequently receive summonses for littering food services located across the street from his office.

“I’m not a food service, but I clean Dunkin’ Donuts, pizza boxes, coffee mugs,” she said. “I clean up everyone’s trash and that’s what I’m here for.”

DSNY staff were present at the meeting to provide insight and address concerns from community members.

Michael Perratta, DSNY’s deputy chief for Staten Island, explained that the agency is limited in terms of holding trash companies accountable.

“There is nothing we can do but force them to pay summons and hold them accountable,” he explained, noting that they are only allowed to issue summons during commercial routing hours.

Perratta sympathized with others who spoke, saying the department aims to use discretion in issuing fines to owners and businesses.

“The last thing we want to do is hurt small businesses, small owners for the sins of others,” he said. “The only thing we can address from our end is discretion.”

Steven Caruso, city-wide community affairs manager for DSNY, asked attendees, in addition to filing 311 complaints, to call the agency’s customer service department for a “faster response” and “experience.” personalized”.

Lander described five “potential sanitation interventions” as follows:

  • Restore DSNY budget cuts
  • Increase DOHMH funding for rat inspections
  • Expand the organics program citywide and make it universal
  • Expand the city’s waste “containerization” pilot program
  • Implement commercial waste zones to improve cleanliness in commercial districts and reduce truck traffic

“THE CITY PROPERTY TAX SYSTEM IS BROKEN”

During the property tax segment, Lander described the city’s property tax system as “broken”, “unfair”, and “a downright unfair system”.

According to city data he shared, Staten Island homeowners pay a tax rate (3-3.5%) that’s about three times higher than Manhattan and what homeowners pay. Brownstone Brooklyn”.

“We are called the forgotten district in terms of transport, sanitation and all the major services, but they remember us when it comes to property taxes,” Hanks said.

Asked about the barriers to change, Lander replied, “Part of it is, of course, the people who benefit from it don’t want to change. … And I don’t know if they had to fight very hard, because no one really tried.

He said the issue is somewhat complicated and would require the city and state to work together, but he thinks it’s possible with the current mayor and governor.

A PATH TO FIXING THE PROPERTY TAX SYSTEM

The comptroller pointed out that the city had a good starting point to tackle the problem. Former Mayor Bill DeBlasio appointed a property tax commission, which produced a comprehensive report on New York’s tax system. Not much has been accomplished with the release of the report on December 27, 2021, just days before DeBlasio’s departure.

“The report they released that day is actually a pretty strong report to make real change,” Lander said. “It’s a pretty simple idea.”

The report proposes that all property taxpayers should have the same rate, relative to the value of their home. He also proposed the establishment of tax relief programs for low-income homeowners, seniors and people on fixed incomes.

Some audience members asked Lander for tips on lobbying and advocating for fair property tax rates in Albany.

Lander pointed out that the report “contains taxpayer proposals that Staten Islanders need and deserve,” and voters should ask their representatives what they will do about high property tax rates and when. a bill will be proposed.

The Comptroller seemed to hope Staten Island lawmakers would be receptive to the question.

“This is such a victory for Staten Island lawmakers,” he said. “I think if they come to see and understand and know that their constituents are paying attention to it, I think they will support it.”

ESTABLISH OPEN LINES OF COMMUNICATION

Hanks told the group that she and her office work to “create open lines of communication” between civic leaders, associations, the community and relevant agencies such as DSNY and the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT ) for problems to solve.

Civic associations are a key mechanism for bringing about change on these issues and should be funded “in a different way than they were funded, because they are the ones raising [with] a small white garbage bag, everywhere.

“We understand that,” she said. “So how do we support them? How do we activate them? How do we get our neighbors to join them? And so, we have this very organized way of getting information and helping voters in the 49th District make it a healthy, clean, and productive environment. That will take time.

Both Hanks and Lander said the public meeting was the “first of many” meetings to come.

The counselor informed attendees that her office will host quarterly “legislative brainstorms” and civic roundtables. The next roundtable will be held to discuss sanitation as it relates to the city budget, she said.

Lander also mentioned that his office will consider releasing the property tax commission’s report beginning in December, along with a summary that streamlines the information, making it more accessible to community members and association lobbyists.

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