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Middle-class families in borough likely to weather latest fiscal woes

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Faced with a bevy of tax hikes and rate increases set to take effect over the next few months, one typical middle-class family in Queens is bracing for sacrifices but expecting ultimately to get by.

“It is a hindrance, but we can still manage,” said Alex Pineiro, a 46-year-old retired New York state police officer. “There’s always a cushion, but now the cushion is a lot thinner.”

Pineiro, his 49-year-old wife Shirley and 12-year-old son Alex, Jr., live in a modest one-story house in Glen Oaks near Union Turnpike. In many ways, it is the quintessential middle-class home, with a basketball hoop in the driveway and a Yankees pennant in the front window.

The biggest problem, Pineiro said, would be the 18.5 percent city property tax hike slated to take effect next year. With home prices in Glen Oaks starting at $400,000 and rising steadily, the Pineiros will be digging a bit deeper as both the tax rate and the assessed value of their home goes up.

But the upcoming 5.5 percent increase in water use fees also annoys Pineiro.

“They’re really trying to nickel and dime the taxpayers,” he said. “How far is the mayor willing to go to get rid of the middle class and working class?”

And although most residents of Glen Oaks rely on cars for transportation, Pineiro’s wife regularly rides the Long Island Rail Road from the Little Neck station to Manhattan, where she manages an after-school program. Due to MTA fare hikes, the trip now costs $4.75 each way during off-peak hours, and a whopping $6.75 at rush hour.

All the same, he said the water rate increase would not force his family to change their habits at home, and the MTA fare hike would not alter their commuting habits.

But the proposed jump in sales tax, from 8.25 percent to 8.625 percent, although small, will only encourage Pineiro to do his shopping outside the city.

“We’re going to go to New Jersey to buy stuff,” he said. “We’ll go where the taxes are lower. If I can pay $6 for a bridge, I’ll take my whole family to buy.”

The only one of the upcoming increases Pineiro will not have to deal with is the proposed income tax surcharge on the wealthy, but he said he still would not support it.

“In taxing the people who are making above a certain salary, he’s trying to find money from people,” Pineiro said of the mayor. “But we need to go into the corporate world and see who’s soaking us.”

All told, Pineiro did not think his family would have to make serious sacrifices, but he said certain expenditures, such as his son’s after-school tutoring, might have to be reconsidered.

The Pineiros have every intention of remaining in the city, although Pineiro admitted it was becoming tougher. And he added that it was not always clear where all the money was going.

“I have no problems in giving taxes and raising taxes as long as the money is going to something substantial, something that will assist the city,” he said.

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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