Gov. Andrew Cuomo addressed the controversy over whether he and his live-in girlfriend, Food Network star Sandra Lee, dodged property tax increases on their $1.2 million New Castle home for the first time Thursday but claimed not to know too much about the process.
The governor said he was unaware that New Castle assessor Phil Platz was barred last month from entering his 4 Bittersweet Lane home to determine the taxable value of its interior. He said he thought that exterior inspections were all that was necessary.
"I think that's how it works, isn't it?" Cuomo asked.
Platz paid a visit to the six-bedroom, five-bath home on three acres May 27 after a Tax Watch investigation found that Lee did extensive work there without building permits and without triggering any increase in the home's taxable value. Lee bought the house she calls Lily Pond for $1.2 million in 2008 but the assessed value had since dropped to $936,000. The renovations she undertook were widely reported in profiles of Lee in USA Today and Vogue, among other publications.
Platz followed up on the newspaper's reporting and increased the assessment by 29 percent, to $1.2 million, but had to guess what was inside the home because he was denied admittance.
GOP opponent Rob Astorino is already hitting Cuomo over this outrage:
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who is challenging Cuomo for governor, charged Thursday that his Democratic opponent had evaded his fair share of property taxes and attempted to cover up the improvements.
"We are directly suggesting that Andrew Cuomo hid renovations to his home in order to evade the higher property taxes he would have to pay if those renovations had been properly permitted, as is required of other citizens," campaign spokeswoman Jessica Proud said. "We are further suggesting that the governor is intentionally barring home access to his town assessor to conceal the amount of work that was done. We are also accusing Governor Cuomo and his government staff of not telling the truth in press reports about the extent of work done in the home."
If Zephyr Teachout is able to get the 15,000 signatures she needs to run in the Democratic Primary against Cuomo, she ought to hit the tax deadbeat charge over and over too - it points to just another example of their being two sets of rules for people in this state, one for the rich, powerful and connected and one for everybody else.
Andrew Cuomo clearly is ensconced in that first subset.