Attention senior citizens: NY may freeze, then eliminate, your school taxes – Democrat & Chronicle

Attention senior citizens: NY may freeze, then eliminate, your school taxes

by: Joseph Spector

ALBANY — Senior citizens in New York could see a big property-tax break and all other homeowners would get a larger tax rebate under a proposal unveiled Tuesday by the Republican-led state Senate.

The $5 billion plan over 10 years, senators said, would help lower property taxes in New York, which is among the most expensive places to live in the nation.

But how the Republicans would pay for the plan and whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Democrats who control the Assembly would support it is uncertain.

The state also faces fiscal troubles: a $4.4 billion deficit for the upcoming year.

Still, Republicans were undaunted, saying property taxpayers deserve a break and that their plan would curb the exodus of New Yorkers leaving for other states.

“We rank the bottom of the list when it comes to business climate,” said Sen. Fred Akshar, R-Colesville, Broome County, said at a Capitol news conference with his colleagues.

“We rank the bottom of the list when it comes to taxes and affordability. But there’s one place where we’re ranked number one, and that’s in outmigration of people.”

Under the plan, senior citizens would initially have their school taxes — the largest part of a property-tax bill — frozen. Then, all school taxes would be phased out after 10 years.

The Senate GOP also proposed doubling the state’s current exemption on pension income, which the senators claimed would save seniors $275 million a year and help avoid them leaving to low-tax states.

Additionally, the current property-tax-rebate checks that go to more than 2 million homeowners would be increased by 25 percent.

“These checks currently provide direct, much-needed relief through checks in the mail to
homeowners and increasing their amount will help further ease the local tax
burden,” the Senate’s “Affordability Agenda” said.

New York already spends more than $3 billion on a year on its STAR rebate program, which provides savings for homeowners and seniors on their school taxes.

For those income eligible, the average basic STAR credit in 2016 was $750, while the average Enhanced STAR was about $1,400 for eligible seniors.

The state is also in the second year of a property-tax-rebate check program that provides a portion of the STAR savings back to homeowners based on income.

Those checks are currently going out.

Click here to read more…

NY may scrap its income tax for a payroll tax – Democrat & Chronicle

NY may scrap its income tax for a payroll tax

by: Joseph Spector, Albany Bureau Chief

ALBANY — New York may end its income tax and instead expand its payroll tax as a way to outmaneuver the new federal law that limits deductions for state and local taxes.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday during his State of the State address that he is exploring how to make the complicated switch, joining other high-tax states in considering how to protect residents’ tax deductions and state revenue.

California and New Jersey leaders have also discussed similar steps, such as programs to allow people to pay charitable contributions to their state governments — rather than pay income taxes.

“It’s a question of our competitiveness long-term and preserving the strength of New York state and New York’s state economy,” Cuomo said, “at a time when we have federal government that is giving other states a structural competitive advantage against us.”

Cuomo also said New York will sue the federal government to fight the tax law, and he vowed to lead a national effort to get the law repealed.

Responding to Washington

Business groups and Republicans have criticized Cuomo’s positions, saying New York should find ways to lower taxes rather than look to fiscal gimmicks.

“Overhauling our tax code should include a thorough examination of our existing unsustainable spending, not imposing a potentially complicated payroll tax on employers,” said Mike Durant, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Cuomo, who is seeking re-election in November and is a potential presidential candidate in 2020, is expected to provide more details about his plans in his proposed state budget later this month.

The ideas are aimed at combating the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductionsput into the federal tax plan approved by Congress and President Donald Trump last month.

It hurts high-tax states’ wealthy residents who easily exceed the cap. The average deduction in California, New York and New Jersey were each over $17,000 in 2015, according to the Government Finance Officers Association.

Since some residents won’t be able to deduct their full state taxes when they itemize their income taxes, a move toward a broader payroll tax could be a way to protect income, supporters say.

Income taxes would end, but employers would then essentially collect the same in payroll tax from employees. Employers and employees would be taxed more, advocates say, but it would still allow for the full deductibility of taxes.

And most importantly for states, it could allow them to maintain their level of tax revenue and avoid residents leaving for lower-tax states.

It would also, to the delight of Democrats in high-tax states, limit how much the federal government would collect in new tax revenue to fund its $1.7 trillion tax cut.

“If the income tax is reduced by the same amount as the payroll tax, the state gets the same amount of money, the worker ends up in the same place and the Republicans don’t get to screw the blue states,” Dean Baker, an economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a left-leaning think tank in Washington D.C., wrote Dec. 20.

Charitable contributions

Cuomo also noted the charitable contribution option.

Some states, like California, are considering a way to set up a charitable organization so residents can donate to the state to pay for programs and services in lieu of paying income taxes — thus allowing the contributions to be deductible.

In California, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León has had a bill to create a California Excellence Fund to “allow a credit equal to the amount contributed by the taxpayer” to the state.

Exploring ways to usurp the federal tax plan should be considered as a way to protect taxpayers and the state coffers, Democrats and progressive groups in New York said.

“It’s really complicated, as the governor said, but I think it’s a requirement now for us to look at ways to work within the construct the federal government has set up and really try to shield everyday New Yorkers from the harmful impacts,” Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, said.

Democrats in the state Legislature have pushed for higher taxes on the wealthy, but that plan faces an increasingly uphill battle because of the federal tax overhaul.

Cuomo, instead, suggested he might look at other ways to protect state tax dollars, noting he may want to end a so-called carried interest loophole that benefits Wall Street.

“It is complicated, it is difficult, but it is clear that we must protect New York taxpayers from this assault,” Cuomo said.

Still, there are plenty of unanswered questions, including the legality of the ideas and how the federal government would respond.

Also, New York has a progressive income-tax system where higher-income residents pay more in taxes. A switch to a payroll tax would complicate it, said E.J. McMahon, founder of the fiscally conservative Empire Center, an Albany-based think tank.

Any plan would need to ensure lower- and middle-income New Yorkers aren’t hurt, said Ron Deutsch, executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute, a labor-backed group in Albany.

“Looking at the swap between payroll and income taxes is interesting.” Deutsch said. “But it is potentially fraught with some pitfalls that would need to be addressed. We would need to make sure it is fair and equitable.”

Still, Rep. John Faso, R-Kinderhook, Columbia County, said Cuomo should look to his own state budget before knocking Washington. Faso voted against the tax bill, but has been critical of state spending.

“Changing to a payroll tax system would be extremely complicated and will likely be met with resistance from taxpayers and businesses alike,” Faso said in a statement.

“The solution is to lower the cost of government in New York and make our state a place where businesses can create jobs so our people don’t have to flee.”

Click here to read more…



The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that rental properties make up at least 40% of all households affected by foreclosure across the country; in New York the number may be as high as 56%.

Another issue for tenants in foreclosed properties is property maintenance. During the foreclosure process, it can be difficult to determine who is responsible for maintenance of the property.

The current property owner, the tenants, the foreclosing party (usually a bank), and the new owner of a property going through foreclosure all have certain rights and obligations.


Pre-Foreclosure Notice

At the start of the foreclosure action, the bank must notify all tenants that the property is the subject of a foreclosure action. Tenants must receive this notice before any post-foreclosure eviction action may be brought in court. The bank must provide its name, address, and telephone number on all notices to tenants.
For buildings with fewer than five rental units, the bank must deliver notice directly to each tenant by certified, first-class mail. For buildings with five or more rental units, the bank may instead post copies of the notice on the outside of each of the building’s entrances and exits.
This is an important right. While this doesn’t protect you from foreclosure, it does let you know what’s going on, and who is involved and enables you to start planning for the future.

Tenants May Be Named in the Foreclosure Action

The bank may name each tenant as a defendant in the foreclosure action. In such cases, the tenant will receive a formal summons and complaint from the county clerk. This filing generally serves as a secondary notice to ensure that all tenants are aware of the foreclosure. Although named as a defendant, the tenant has no legal obligation to appear in court to defend the action.


Continue to pay your rent. Before ownership is transferred to a new owner tenants remain subject to the requirements of their lease agreements, including payment of rent to the landlord. In some cases, a receiver may be appointed to manage rental payments while the action is pending. If a receiver is appointed, tenants should receive proof of appointment and information on how to submit rental payments to the receiver instead of to the landlord.

During the pending action, the landlord is required to maintain the property as they would in the absence of any foreclosure action.


The foreclosing party must notify all affected tenants of the outcome of the foreclosure judgment. There is typically a lapse between the final foreclosure judgment – which revokes ownership from the landlord – and the foreclosure sale, which completes the sale and transfer of title to a new owner. During this time, the bank has a duty to maintain the property.


After the foreclosure sale is complete and title is transferred to a new owner, the new owner must provide written notice to all tenants providing the new owner’s name and address, and advising tenants of the following rights:

Tenants in Rent-Controlled & Rent Stabilized Units: Regardless of the outcome of a foreclosure, tenants in rent-controlled and rent-stabilized units maintain the same rights and obligations as they did under agreements with their previous landlords. The only change is the party to whom they submit their rental payments. The new owner must continue to comply with all laws and regulations that apply to units subject to
rent control and rent stabilization.

The only exception to the above is that a new owner can evict a tenant, in only one unit, if the owner intends to occupy that unit as his/her primary residence. In that case, the new owner must provide notice to vacate at least 90 days prior to the effective date of eviction.

Tenants in Section 8 Housing: The rights of tenants in Section 8 housing are almost the same as for rent controlled and rent stabilized tenants, except that the standard for eviction is “for serious or repeated violations of the terms and conditions of the lease, for violation of applicable Federal, State, or local law, or for other good cause.” Change of ownership due to foreclosure is not in itself good cause for eviction so in the absence of other compelling circumstances Section 8 tenants may not be evicted by the new owner. The same exception noted above regarding owner’s use as primary residence applies to Section 8 tenants.

Tenants in Non-Regulated Units: Tenants residing in units that are not subject to rent control or rent stabilization may retain occupancy either until the end of their lease term or for 90 days after receipt of the notice from the new owner, whichever is greater.

Tenants in non-regulated units who wish to remain in their apartment should communicate so directly with the new owner, however, the new owner is under no obligation to extend tenant occupancy beyond the expiration of the original lease agreement or beyond 90 days in the absence of a written agreement.

Tenants that do not have a written lease may remain in the unit for 90 days, paying the same rent they had under the previous ownership.

If you are a tenant and feel you are being wrongly evicted you should consult an attorney. If you do not have an attorney, call the New York State Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Program at (800) 342-3661 to find one. If you do not think you can afford a lawyer, you may qualify for free legal assistance. For more information,
you can call the Legal Aid office in your area, visit Law Help at or call our Foreclosure Relief Hot Line at (800) 269-0990 for assistance in locating free legal services in your area.


United Way of Greater Rochester names new president and CEO –

United Way of Greater Rochester names new president and CEO

by: Meghan Finnerty

Entering its 100th year, the United Way of Greater Rochester named a new president and chief executive officer on Tuesday.

Jaime Saunders will join United Way as president on Jan. 10, 2018.

Former president and CEO, Fran Weisberg, called a “powerhouse” by her successor, said she is excited about her transition into “just helping Rochester.” Weisberg held the position since 2015.

“It’s time to give the torch to someone new,” Weisberg said — Saunders is “the perfect person.”

Dan Burns, board chairman, said the search committee was made up of about 10 people who started the “important job,” in June. From 60 inquires, 25 applied, from there the list was narrowed to only five who had interviews and assessments. The final two were taken to the board where Saunders was unanimously selected.

 Experienced in helping the community, Saunders is the President and CEO of Willow Domestic Violence Center, and will assist the center’s search for a new president in her departure. Additionally she has prior leadership experience working at the Center for Governmental Research and Foodlink.

“Passionate” is not an adequate word to describe Saunders, Burns said, what she brings to the table is much more. “Her experience in serving those most in need will bring a welcome perspective to the work that United Way does to identify the greatest local challenges.”

At a 10 a.m. press conference, Saunders said, “I have long admired this important community organization, throughout my career I have had the honor of working for United Way community funded agencies, programs and strategic partners, such as CGR. I have seen first hand the incredible impact United Way has on our community, every day.”

In her experience at CGR, data from science and research was used to look at complex community challenges. This experience will be an asset to the new position, officials said.

The “marriage” between working with the “head and heart,” is important to her. At United Way, she will seek to help the community with immediate needs and simultaneously work to tackle long term problems, she said.

“I am deeply humbled to be selected as the new leader of United Way of Greater Rochester.”

Click here to read more…

Puerto Ricans fleeing hurricane aftermath welcomed in Rochester

Puerto Ricans fleeing hurricane aftermath welcomed in Rochester

ROCHESTER, NY (WHEC) – Following Hurricane Maria, hundreds of people relocated to Rochester from Puerto Rico.

On Thursday, they were welcomed to the Flower City with a reception put on by IBERO.

“In response to the number of families that are relocating to Rochester from Puerto Rico, IBERO is leading a collaborative effort that ensures they feel welcomed and receive the assistance they need to rebuild their lives,” wrote the organization.

The Welcome Reception included dozens of organizations and agencies assisting the hundreds of families with finding places to live, work, and go to school.

“As of Friday, November 3rd, approximately 500 individuals (250-300 families) have arrived in Rochester and the surrounding area. As the only full service dual-language human services agency, and with nearly 50 years of experience, IBERO has the expertise that is needed to serve this new influx of residents,” stated IBERO.

Due to the response effort at the local level, IBERO has established a new Hurricane Maria Fund to help provide clothing, school supplies, food, and toiletries to the families. Monetary donations can be made with a credit card online.

Checks can be made out to Ibero American Action League and mailed to 817 East Main Street, Rochester, NY 14605. The memo line should be noted as IBERO’s Hurricane Maria Fund.

Click here to read more…



by Jordan Mazza

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Hurricane Maria has devastated Puerto Rico – the only home the Lopez family has ever known.

“In some places we don’t have food, we don’t have water,” said Jann Lopez. “And people pass hungry. It’s bad, very, very bad. I lost my job in Puerto Rico because of Hurricane Maria and came here to have a job, school for my kids, and better lifetime for my entire family.”

They’re among approximately 500 people so far who have moved from Puerto Rico to Rochester after the hurricane.

“They have absolutely nothing,” said Patricia Cruz-Irving of the Ibero-American Action League. “So imagine what it must be like having lost everything and then having to move somewhere else. At least they have family to come to, but still having to rebuild from the ground up.”

That’s why the Ibero-American Action League organized a welcome reception Thursday at 938 Clifford Avenue to help them acclimate to their new home and connect them with support services.

“I’m here today because they’re helping us out,” said evacuee Wanda Alaya, who moved here from Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. “And I’m so glad they have all these agencies giving us an opportunity to stand up again.”

Dozens of local and national agencies were on hand Thursday to help displaced families with housing, jobs and medical care.

“The idea is to give them one location that they can come to, so they don’t have to go to one building for one thing, one location for something else,” Cruz-Irving said. “They can come here for everything they need, and then from here, they can start to rebuild their lives.”

Agencies present included the Red Cross, the New York State Department of Labor, Foodlink, the Rochester City School District, and the Rochester Housing Authority.

The RHA says hurricane evacuees are considered a “super-preference” in getting Section 8 housing.

“They would actually come to the top of the list,” said Sandra Whitney of the Rochester Housing Authority. “So it’s a way for us to be able to get housing when that’s obviously their greatest need right now.”

Whitney says at least 20 landlords have agreed to give evacuees one or two months of free rent.

And Ibero says it will continue to operate a multi-agency resource center in the Clifford Avenue space at least one day per week.

Click here to read more…

First ICON Honors winners announced –

First ICON Honors winners announced

by: Rochester Business Journal Staff

The recipients of the first-ever Rochester Business Journal ICON Honors awards have been selected.

The honorees are business leaders over the age of 60 who have had notable success and demonstrate strong leadership both within and outside of their chosen field.

“Strong leadership, a commitment to mentoring and being an active community member are qualities shared by the ICON Honors recipients,” said Suzanne Fischer-Huettner, publisher of the Rochester Business Journal. “They have moved business in Rochester forward, both their own businesses and the Rochester business community in general. ICON Honors recipients have committed many years to making our area a wonderful place to live and to work, and they truly deserve to be called icons. Rochester Business Journal is pleased to honor them.”

The ICON Honors awards will be presented Monday, Dec. 18, at a reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Genesee Valley Club, 421 East Avenue in Rochester. Winners will be profiled in a special publication that will be inserted into the Dec. 22 issue of the Rochester Business Journal and available online at

The 2017 Honorees are:

  • Don Alhart, News Anchor and Associate News Director, WHAM-TV
  • Kate Bennett, CEO, Rochester Museum & Science Center
  • Thomas F. Bonadio, Managing Partner and CEO, The Bonadio Group
  • Vincent Buzard, Appellate Counsel, Harris Beach PLLC
  • Lauren Dixon, CEO, Dixon Schwabl
  • Richard Dorschel, President, Dorschel Automotive Group
  • Hilda Rosario Escher, President and CEO, Ibero-American Action League
  • Garth Fagan Founder, Garth Fagan Dance
  • Thomas Golisano, Founder, Paychex Inc.
  • George W. Hamlin IV, Chairman, Canandaigua National Bank & Trust
  • Nelson Leenhouts, Chairman and CEO, Home Leasing LLC
  • Giovanni LiDestri, CEO, LiDestri Foods
  • Sandy Parker, Former CEO, Rochester Business Alliance
  • Joel Seligman, President, University of Rochester
  • I C Shah, Founder, ICS Telecom Inc.
  • Albert Simone, President Emeritus, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Louise Slaughter, Congresswoman, New York’s 25th Congressional District
  • Justin L. Vigdor, Of Counsel, Bond Schoeneck & King Attorneys
  • Danny Wegman, Chairman, Wegmans Food Markets
  • Fran Weisberg, President and CEO, United Way of Greater Rochester

Click here to read more…

Renting homes is overtaking the housing market. Here’s why –

Renting homes is overtaking the housing market. Here’s why

by: Bob Sullivan

Single-family rentals — either detached homes or townhomes — are developing faster than any other portion of the housing market. These rentals outpace both single-family home purchases and apartment-style living, according to the Urban Institute.

“Almost all the housing demand in recent years has been filled by rental units,” says Sara Strochak, a research assistant with the Urban Institute. She also states that single-family rentals have gone up 30% within the last three years.

This change is unique to newer generations. But when did rentals become so popular? And why are people more inclined to rent than to buy? Below, we’ll further discuss the rise in rentals and how it affects the housing market.

When did the rise in single-family rentals start?

The housing bubble collapse and the recession that followed shattered the decades-old tenet of American wisdom that you can’t go wrong buying a home. Most of the housing market fallout from the Great Recession has finally receded — foreclosures and underwater mortgages are back to traditional levels and housing values have recovered in most places. But one thing hasn’t recovered: Americans’ unquestioned desire to own a home.

Today, single-family rental homes and townhomes make up 35% of the country’s 44 million rental units, compared to 31% in 2006.

Who is leading this trend?

Millennials are leading the way to single-family rentals, and myriad factors contribute to this trend. Many young adults aren’t in a hurry to lay down roots, whether they’re prone to traveling or simply aren’t ready to commit to one area or one home. Student loans and stagnant incomes can also make it harder to save up for a down payment. And it’s inevitable that young people who came of age during the housing bubble would be reluctant to take a leap of faith and commit to a 30-year mortgage.

“While the age distribution of the U.S. population suggests most millennials are reaching the age of household formation and demand for single-family homes, much of this demand is likely to be channeled into the rental market,” says Strochak.

UB Law School clinic to help hurricane victims –

UB Law School clinic to help hurricane victims

by: Bennett Loudon

The University at Buffalo School of Law has launched a new law clinic — The Puerto Rico Recovery Assistance Legal Clinic — to provide free legal assistance to the victims of Hurricane Maria.

Applications are now being accepted and eight students will be selected to receive about two weeks of intensive training in preparation for a 10-day trip to the island in January.

The students, who will receive academic credit for their participation, will work under the supervision of Kim Diana Connolly, professor and vice dean for advocacy and experiential education, and director of the law school’s clinical legal education program.

“We are still in the process of working with experts on the ground to figure out what their legal needs are going to be in January,” Connolly said.

“We’re not deciding what we’re going to do until we hear from our partners what they need. So we are still in the process of designing the curriculum,” Connolly said.

Disaster-related legal issues typically include landlord/tenant problems, insurance claims, FEMA claims and consumer issues, such as contractor fraud.

UB faculty, local alumni and other experts will help provide the training for students. Some training will be done by video conferencing between Buffalo and Puerto Rico.

“We’ve had a lot of alumni interest in providing their expertise, so we’ll be able to have students with iPads down there connecting with alumni who will be able to provide some support,” Connolly said.

A fundraising campaign with a $30,000 goal is underway to help pay for travel costs.

Connolly also is planning to blog about the project while she’s in Puerto Rico.

“People are going to be able to follow along on the clinical legal education website here at the law school,” Connolly said.

Luis Chiesa, a criminal law professor at the law school and a native of Puerto Rico, will act as an academic consultant.

“Access to justice is at the heart of everything we do at the law school and this initiative is a perfect example,” Dean Aviva Abramovsky said in a news release.

UB School of Law is currently hosting three students from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law who could not continue their studies in Puerto Rico because of the hurricane.

“We have a long history of providing pro bono service and teaching our students to view the world with compassion, knowing that regardless of where they ultimately choose to work, they have a moral responsibility, as lawyers and as leaders, to use their skills and knowledge to ensure justice and to give back,” she said.

Donations to support the effort can be made online at:

For more information, call (716) 645-2167 or email

Low inventory leads to intense housing market – Democrat & Chronicle – October 24th, 2017

Low inventory leads to intense housing market

by: Mary Chao

When David Richard and his girlfriend Kate Burt decided to buy a home earlier this year, they knew it was a competitive real estate market. Sellers of homes in the $175,000 to $225,000 range in good condition in east sidesuburbs were receiving multiple offers, often over asking price.

The couple worked together with their Realtor Christine Yager of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services on a strategy, writing a personalized letter to the sellers. They won the multiple bid scenario and recently moved into their four-bedroom, 2,100 square-foot home in Penfield.

“You have to be creative in this market,” Yager said.

The current market is decidedly a seller’s market, with conditions favoring people who have homes for sale. The demand for homes is especially strong in the mid-tier price points of $175,000 to $250,000 in eastside suburbs, $120,000 to $200,000 in westside suburbs and the southeast area of Rochester, according to area real estate professionals.

What’s driving the frenzied market is the lack of available inventory and fear of rising interest rates, Yager said. According to the Greater Rochester Association of Realtors, the number of homes listed fell by 22.6 percent during the third quarter of 2017 that ended Sept. 30, compared with the same period last year with 1,702 homes listed for sale in Monroe County. That caused the quarterly sales to fall by 6.3 percent with a total of 2,597 sales during the three months of July, August and September.

The low inventory issue has been a drag on the market all year, beginning with an extremely busy market in January as buyers fight for the available homes on the market and continuing well into late in the year as the market extends into late fall.

Click here to read more…