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Bloomberg’s $400 rebate gets mixed review in boro

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Queens officials and civic leaders reacted with cautious optimism to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal for a $400 property tax rebate in his State of the City address, welcoming the one-time relief but questioning how much it could help people in the long run.

In his Long Island City speech last Thursday, Bloomberg said his preliminary budget would include a $400 rebate from the 18.5 percent property tax increase passed in November 2002. The one-time rebate would be applied to owners of homes, co-ops and condominiums.

The property tax hike, passed to close the city’s yawning budget gap, was blamed for the mayor’s plummeting popularity in 2003.

“I’m pleased that he’s finally getting the message,” said Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), one of three Queens council members to vote against the 18.5 percent property tax increase.

“I want to do something that’s more permanent in nature and not a one-time rebate,” said Avella, who was stripped of a committee post and a parking permit as retribution for his no-vote.

A spokesman for the city’s Independent Budget Office said the tax increase cost Queens single-family homeowners on average an extra $365, apartment owners an extra $245, co-op owners $240 and condominium owners $286.

Avella said increased assessments on home values could offset the rebate.

“Is (Bloomberg) going to give back with one hand and take it away with the other hand?” asked Avella, who opposed the original increase on the grounds that the city should get more financial help from the state and federal governments.

Phil Konigsberg of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, a civic group representing a large area of co-ops, said of the rebate, “It’ll help each individual family, but I know it’s not going to help the fact that so many co-ops were forced to raise their maintenance fees because of the property tax increase.”

Richard Hellenbrecht, chairman of Community Board 13, welcomed the proposed rebate but said, “I hope it’s not purely a political gimmick.”

Hellenbrecht, whose board covers Glen Oaks, Queens Village, Bellerose, Rosedale and other eastern Queens communities, estimated that 70 percent of his area’s population consisted of single-family homeowners.

“It’s nice to know we’re in a position that money can come back,” he said, But he added, “It’s foolish to have stopgap measures that will create problems down the line.”

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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