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Nov 11, 2009 10:14 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Suit claims East Hampton tax assessor unjustly raised taxes

Nov 11, 2009 10:14 AM

When Anthony Macagna, a funeral director from New Jersey, bought a house on Old West Lake Drive in Montauk in 2005, he soon became embroiled in series of disputes with his neighbors and the town, which culminated with the town increasing his taxes to four times what they had been when he moved into the house.

Mr. Macagna filed suit in New York State Supreme Court in June against the town, all three of the town’s tax assessors, and his neighbors, Sally Nielsen Glogg and Ronald Glogg. Ms. Nielsen Glogg is the sister of town tax assessor Jeanne Nielsen, and the suit alleges that she conspired with her sister to have Mr. Macagna’s taxes increased after he cleared some threatened Montauk shad trees from along the property line they shared.

Jeanne Nielsen said that neither she nor her sister were at liberty to discuss the lawsuit. It is the town’s position that Mr. Macagna did a 100-percent renovation of his house, triggering the increased assessment, though the house appears to observers to not have been renovated since Mr. Macagna bought it.

“We’re dealing with it down the appropriate avenues. The truth is the truth,” said Ms. Nielsen. “There still has not been a permit issued to this day.”

Tax Assessor Eugene DePasquale was responsible for the increased assessment, though Mr. Macagna’s attorney, Jon Tarbet of East Hampton, says that he believes Mr. DePasquale acted with the knowledge and consent of Ms. Nielsen.

Mr. Macagna began clearing a portion of the Gloggs’ property in October 2005, his assessment skyrocketed in April 2006, and, in May 2006, the Gloggs sued Mr. Macagna in Suffolk County Supreme Court, seeking damages for the trees that Mr. Macagna acknowledges he cut down.

“His position has been that there are improvements on the property,” said Town Attorney John Jilnicki of Mr. DePasquale. “That’s what I understand. He has looked at it.”

Mr. Tarbet countered that there was never a major renovation of the roughly 3,000-square-foot house and granted a reporter a tour of the property recently to prove his point. The plaster ceilings of the main house appear to be original and are cracked, with water stains in many places. The walls appear to be original wainscotting, while the windows appear to be original and the caulk around the window frames is peeling and decayed. The paint on the wooden kitchen door is peeling, and the original kitchen has been torn out and replaced with surplus restaurant equipment, including rolling stainless steel carts, an eight-burner stove and a large industrial sink.

Mr. Tarbet said that he doubted the changes to the kitchen should have triggered a reassessment, since the shelves are portable and the fixtures were obviously suited to Mr. Macagna’s taste, not with an eye toward increasing the property value. East Hampton has a long history of not reassessing properties except in the event of major renovations.

Mr. Macagna paid $2.3 million for the property overlooking Lake Montauk on Old West Lake Drive, but because the town assesses at a rate of less than 1 percent of full value, his property was assessed at $7,000 when he bought it. In 2006, that value jumped to $27,025.

Using 2009 tax figures for Montauk School and East Hampton Town taxes, Mr. Macagna’s taxes this year would be $19,930, up from $5,162 before the reassessment.

Mr. Tarbet said that Mr. Macagna is on the verge of foreclosure on the house and has had to renegotiate his mortgage in order to both keep the house and pay the taxes, at payments that are now averaging about $10,000 per month.

Mr. Macagna is concurrently protesting the taxes before the town’s Board of Assessment Review, but Mr. Tarbet’s suit goes much farther in detailing the alleged cause of the jump in his client’s taxes. Mr. Tarbet said that it wasn’t until he began to prepare a case against the town that he realized that Mr. Macagna lived next door to a town tax assessor’s sister.

“It’s a tight community, and he’s a guy from New Jersey who got into a land dispute,” he said.

The Gloggs’ attorney, David Eagan, said that the claims against his clients are outrageous, and added that they would be very difficult to prove in court.

“This suit’s ridiculous,” he said. “Mr. Macagna illegally trespassed on my client’s property and cleared Montauk shad trees. We tried to get him to make whole on that for a really long time. If you knowingly cut down trees on someone else’s property, you are legally responsible for triple damages. That’s well over $300,000 of rare and indigenous trees. We suspect at the end of the day he’s going to be forced to pay for that.”

“My clients categorically deny that his house was reassessed in retribution,” Mr. Eagan added. “In fact there is no evidence of any of that happening. He made very sophisticated, substantial improvements over time and got reassessed.”

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I hope Mr. Wilkinson does a deep clean up, and hired professional and fair people!!

Stop the corruption in East Hampton!!!!
By Bel (86), southampton on Nov 11, 09 10:31 AM
This is not the first time I have heard of this type of treatment by this tax assessor dept. It looks like the Mcgintee era continues for now. Hopefully Wilkinson cleans up this mess when he takes the helm.
By Hummer (13), East Hampton on Nov 12, 09 4:11 PM
This man bought his property for $2.3 million and his taxes were only $7,000 and they were reassessed to $19,000. I don't see a problem here. I bought my house for just under $800,000 and my taxes are almost $6,000 PLUS $2,500 in village taxes for a run-down little house on a little more than 1/4 of an acre. It is time that the middle-class stops footing the tax bill for multi-million-dollar properties in this town! If you are prepared to spend 2, 3 or 4 million dollars on a property, you should ...more
By SportoJT (4), East Hampton on Nov 13, 09 8:31 AM
**Correction to my above post*** His property taxes were only $5,162 (not $7,000) on a property he purchased for $2.3 million!!! This man has some nerve to accuse Ms. Nielsen and he sister of conspiring against him. I know that the tax man isn't popular with anyone, but come on! This man has alot of nerve! Not to mention that he trespassed on his neighbor's property to remove trees!
By SportoJT (4), East Hampton on Nov 13, 09 8:42 AM
You miss the point there sporto--no one is denying that the Town should do a town-wide reassessment. The law does not allow the Town to re-assess only one property and especially not to do it in retaliation or selectively. Perhaps you should offer up your address and volunteer to be brought to full value. I'm sure you would be very unhappy if that was to occur.
By Neighbor (10), East Hampton on Nov 13, 09 12:53 PM
I heard there was a phone call saying we got him
By asurest (117), easthampton on Nov 13, 09 3:36 PM