State pols pushing for Sandy tax break

A bi-partisan group of state legislators from Brooklyn is pushing Governor Andrew Cuomo to waive car registration fees and sales taxes for Hurricane Sandy victims who had to buy new cars after their vehicles were destroyed in the Oct. 29 super-storm.

Assembly members Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island), William Colton (D-Bensonhurst-Gravesend) and Alec Brook-Krasny (D-Bay Ridge-Coney Island) held a press conference on Jan. 29, where they called on the governor to not only waive the fees and taxes but to offer rebates on sales tax the victims already paid to buy new cars.

The group is calling for sales tax up to $1,000 per person to be waived by the state.

"The victims of Hurricane Sandy have been left in personal and financial ruin.  We must do all we can to ease the long rebuilding process," Malliotakis said. "By eliminating registration fees and up to $1,000 worth of state sales tax for vehicle purchasers whose car was destroyed by the storm, we are extending a helping hand to those who need it most."

Giving a helping hand isn’t the only reason victims should get a break, according to Malliotakis, who said it’s also good business. “We are creating incentives for consumers to shop in-state, helping dealerships that were also impacted by the storm and avoiding any state budget shortfalls as this revenue could not have been anticipated prior to the storm. Helping our neighbors rebuild is the right thing to do, and this measure will ease the crushing burden that so many of our families are feeling," she said.

Assembly members Michael Cusick (D-Staten Island), Matthew Titone (D-Staten Island), Joseph Saladino (R-Massapequa) and Brian Curran (R-Valley Stream) also attended the press conference and said they support the effort to give Hurricane Sandy victims a tax break.

In other news on the hurricane, U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) said he was pleased that the U.S. Senate approved the $50.5 billion Sandy relief package on Jan. 28. The House had passed the measure on Jan. 15. The Huffington Post reported that the senate vote was 62-36.

“Tonight the Sandy relief bill has cleared its final hurdle,” said Grimm, who spoke shortly after the vote took place. “Relief is now in sight for so many in Staten Island and Brooklyn who have waited far too long for this assistance. Once this bill becomes law, we will have more funding to continue helping our  homeowners and small business owners get back on their feet, begin repairing New York City’s devastated infrastructure, and give the Army Corps of Engineers the resources it needs to begin fortifying our shoreline,” he said.

“So many of us have fought hard in Washington to move this bill forward, and today I applaud the efforts of senators Schumer and Gillibrand to push this bill through the senate and onto the president’s desk,” Grimm said.

The legislation will help the city rebuild in a variety of ways, according to Grimm. It will help homeowners and business owners fill in gaps left by FEMA and uninsured losses – giving them funding to help with repairs and mitigation. It will allow New York City to begin rebuilding large-scale projects, such as the Whitehall subway station in lower Manhattan that would have remained closed indefinitely without federal aid to cover the $600 million cost of repairs, Grimm said.  

The funding will also help rebuild the Manhattan Veterans Administration Hospital, as well as Coney Island Hospital. The latter has over 300,000 outpatient visits a year and has over 2,300 employees. Coney Island Hospital suffered severe damage to its mechanical systems, and cannot make repairs to critical infrastructure, including its electric, medical, and gas systems, without federal aid, Grimm said.