Scarsdale Residents File Motion to Intervene in Article 78 Proceeding
- The Goods
- Published on Tuesday, 04 April 2017 21:57
- Joanne Wallenstein
Though the Village election is over, and some members of the Village Board who came under attack for the 2016 Revaluation are no longer serving Scarsdale, the Article 78 proceeding, filed on January 13, 2017, which demands that the Village void the 2016 revaluation lives on.
In response to the Article 78, the Village of Scarsdale filed a motion to dismiss on February 15 on the basis of a number of procedural issues and that the petitioners failure to prove their claim that properties were overvalued or that the revaluation constituted a waste of or injury to public funds" or that it was illegal, imperiled the public interest or "calculated to work public injury." See more here.
In the intervening weeks, the Scarsdale Committee for Fair Assessments, who filed the Article 78, filed an opposition brief to the motion to dismiss on March 17, and then the Village parried with a reply on March 29.
Now another group of Scarsdale residents has filed their own motion to intervene in the case. Their objection stems from the Article 78 petitioners' claim that they filed their action "on behalf of all other taxpayers in the Town/Village of Scarsdale." This new motion to intervene was filed on April 3, to "correct the false record put forth by the Committee and make clear that "all other taxpayers in the Town/Village of Scarsdale" do not agree that the Committee represents their interests." In fact, the motion says that the intervenors "Object to the Village wasting its time and money defending the Article 78" and also "Object to the prospect of Scarsdale's tax assessment procedure being dictated by a judicial monitor rather than proceeding under the established municipal and state regulatory procedures and administrative remedies that govern residential property tax assessments."
The intervenors, listed below, are represented by Jennifer Barrett, Marc Greenwald and Kevin Reed, three attorneys from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, who are also Scarsdale residents. They did the work on a pro-bono basis. They represent Andrew and Mary Louise Perlman, Richard K. Abbe, Susan Upton Douglass, Eli R. Mattioli, David M. Matusz, Carole Anne Parlato, Josh Silverman, Seth I. Silverstein, Jill F. Spielberg and Gabrielle Reiffel Wise.
Kevin Reed, one of the attorneys who filed the motion to intervene said, "Our clients filed their motion to intervene in the Article 78 proceeding to make clear to the Court that the self-appointed Scarsdale Committee for Fair Assessments does not represent all Scarsdale taxpayers. If the motion is granted, our clients will advocate to the Court that that the Article 78 proceeding is without merit, that a rollback of the 2016 assessment would cause the Village more harm than good, and that grievances with the results of the 2016 assessment should be pursued on an individual basis through the administrative and judicial mechanisms provided by New York State law."
The motion provides some history to support their claim. Was the Article 78 intended to benefit just the 151 petitioners who signed it or all Scarsdale residents? It quotes a 12/6/16 letter from Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez to Scarsdale Neighborhood Association Presidents that seems to indicate that only the signers would benefit. It says, "It is important that you understand the way the process works. Only those residents who join the group that is bringing the action, can receive refunds from the results of a successful Article 78 proceeding.... There is a risk of losing, but there is also upside to winning the Article 78 action."
The background information includes the results of the recent election in Scarsdale Village where the newly formed Scarsdale Voters' Choice Party focused on "the flawed Ryan revaluation" and vowed to pursue the Article 78. Two of their candidates were signers of the Article 78. Since the Scarsdale Voters' Choice Party was soundly defeated, the attorneys posit that the Article 78 does not represent the interests of all homeowners.
The motion to intervene states that New York law gives the local assessor authority to perform valuations and empowers homeowners to grieve any perceived inequities. Furthermore, if the tax valuations were rolled back to 2015 levels, the motion claims that others who saw their taxes go down between 2015 and 2016 would be "prejudiced."
Commenting on the motion to intervene, Attorney Robert Bernstein who represents the Scarsdale Committee for Fair Assessments said, "I don't think the interveners understand or appreciate what the legal proceedings here are about. The Article 78 petition is not a class action filed on behalf of all taxpayers. It is instead a legal proceeding brought by a committee of 152 (now154) individual property owners in the Village of Scarsdale who are seeking to enjoin the Village from levying taxes on all village taxpayers on the basis of a tax assessment roll which intentionally and systematically undervalued Scarsdale's larger homes by valuing them at substantially less than 100% of market value, while Scarsdale's smaller homes were valued at 100% of market value or more. The petition was supported by a statistical analysis which showed exactly that. Such intentional systematic undervaluation violates New York state law and the equal protection rights of Scarsdale taxpayers to property taxation based on a uniform percentage of value across the board. The remedy for a serious violation such as this is not to do nothing and leave things just the way they are, which is what the interveners suggest, but rather to require Scarsdale to use an untainted assessment roll going forward in which all Scarsdale taxpayers, those in large and small homes, pay only their fair share."
The case is in the hands of Judge Bruce E. Tolbert in White Plains.
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