Tax hike for LI residents paired with tax cut for mall sparks demand for resignations

VALLEY STREAM, Long Island — Mary Ho clutched the tax bill she received earlier this month while talking about the exasperation she still feels weeks after it arrived.

"I was shocked opening my mail," she told PIX11 News.

She showed the bottom line of her current tax bill, for well over $7,000, alongside her previous one, which was less than $2,300.

"The total difference is $5,102," she said, frustrated.

Ho is one of thousands of Valley Stream residents whose taxes rose suddenly at a rate they say will squeeze them financially. Her neighbor, Ginette Frederique, said it will put her and her family in a bind.

"This is outrageous," Frederique said as she held a tax bill that has increased $900 from her previous assessment. "We feel they're trying to kick us out."

Frederique and many other residents in this town of 37,000 say that while they're upset that they're now being required to pay much more to live here, they're outraged that their neighbor received a huge tax break. Especially since that neighbor is a shopping mall owned by a Fortune 500 corporation.

Green Acres Mall received $6 million in tax breaks, as well as the ability to not pay more taxes for at least 10 year as the result of a $14 million payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT.

The deal with the owner of the mall, Macerich Corporation, was struck by the unelected, appointed board of the Industrial Development Agency, or IDA, of Hempstead, Long Island's largest town. Valley Stream is one of more than a dozen municipalities that make up the Town of Hempstead. The arrangement is designed to help finance a $79 million refurbishing of the mall.

On Thursday, the supervisor of this town of 750,000 people said he'll demand that the seven-member IDA board resign at their next meeting, scheduled for Nov. 15.

"And replace them," Town Supervisor Anthony Santino, a Republican, said, "with individuals who I believe will be more accountable and responsive to taxpayers."

Meanwhile, the state assembly member for the district is requesting an audit by the state attorney general of the tax arrangement brokered by the IDA.

"This is a classic example of corporations over people," said Michaelle Solages, a Democrat who represents Valley Stream. "This is an egregious, egregious error and it needs to be repealed."

The town supervisor said he intends to take legal action against the IDA, in addition to demanding the ouster of its board, which made the tax arrangement with Macerich two years ago. The first increased tax bill to come out of the deal was mailed to homeowners this month.

Green Acres Mall management and its parent company, Macerich, did not respond to multiple requests for comment from PIX11 News.

Residents are commenting, however. They say that, in the end, the new tax situation is about their lives and livelihoods being compromised.

"They will kick me out," said Frederique. "How am I going to pay for this? Where am I going to get the money?"