Westchester’s Sandra Lee Gets Nearly 29 Percent Assessment Boost

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Sandra Lee was with Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the 2014 Belmont Stakes.
Sandra Lee was with Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the 2014 Belmont Stakes. Photo Credit: Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Flickr Account

NEW CASTLE, N.Y. -- American television chef and author Sandra Lee has received a large increase in the assessment of her New Castle property that she shares with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

According to town records, Lee’s assessment jumped from $196,750 in 2013 to a tentative $253,200 for 2014, an increase of nearly 29 percent.  The full-market value of the property, which is an estimate of what it could sell for, also increased, going from $936,013 in 2013 to more than $1.2 million in the tentative assessment roll.

Information about Lee’s residence has been a major news item since The Journal News reported in May that work without permits was done at the property.

Only Lee is listed as an owner of the 3-acre property, which is located at 4 Bittersweet Lane and is near the border with Mount Kisco. The property has been referred to in the media as “Lily Pond.” In the past, Cuomo has paid for part of the property tax burden, according to a 2010 story from the Times-Union, an Albany newspaper. It is not clear whether he still contributes.

New Castle Assessor Philip Platz, in an interview, explained that he requested a full inspection – it includes interior and exterior inspections – but was only allowed to inspect the outside. The inspection was done in late May.

“If someone doesn’t let me in, no matter who it is, I would then be charged to try to estimate what they have,” he said.

Articles about work on the property were considered for the assessment determination, Platz confirmed.
Legally, Lee has a chance to challenge the assessment; New Castle’s grievance day is scheduled for June 17. Platz did not know whether Lee will challenge the assessment.

A spokeswoman for Lee gave a general response.
"Sandra will review the assessment," Audra Boltion told The Journal News.

Boltion, who declined to tell The Journal News the reason for denying Platz interior entry, could not be reached for this article. A person working for Cuomo’s press office took a message involving questions pertaining to the matter, but no reply call was given.

Cuomo addressed the denial of interior access with reporters when he made a Thursday stop in Peekskill, according to a Journal News article. The publication reported that he was unaware of the denial of interior access.

“I don’t know how the town system works itself,” Cuomo was quoted by The Journal News as stating. “But generally the way it works is the town does an assessment, the homeowner then reviews the assessment, if the homeowner wants to question the assessment, they do, and that situation would apply here.”

The permits issue was raised in a video from Cuomo’s gubernatorial election opponent, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino – it’s called “Bad Astorino” – Daily Voice reported.

"(Astorino) has called on Cuomo to let the assessor into the home," Astorino spokeswoman Jessica Proud told Daily Voice for a story about the video. "People in New York have the right to know if he's paying their fair share of taxes. What are they hiding? Why won't they open the door?"

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Comments (6)

Ms Harrison and if your "perks" are in the form of monetary concessions you should be picking them up on your tax return as unearned income. I guess tax cheats hang together huh?

I don't understand your comment. Perks are the benefits that one gets by being on a board or even a worker of some company, or even the fire department (like a better parking spot, or something fixed that they want fixed). These are not monetary so I don't understand the unearned income on a tax return. As for cheating on taxes, I believe most of us do it in one form or another. For example: In NY one has to pay extra for sales tax on things or services bought outside their own municipality. Most people just list it as "0" because it is 1.Very difficult to actually figure out what one owes, 2. It is doubtful that the state will come looking for the unpaid money cause it would not be worth their bother and 3. most people don't know they have to pay this cause they use an accountant who says to just put zero down. Do you only buy things in Chappaqua where the sales tax is lower and pay the added amount? I doubt it! I do return bottles to get the deposit back on ones that I actually didn't pay deposits on so I guess if you are applying that I cheat, I will admit that But really, that was my whole point, everyone cheats but if you are a politician it often comes out when someone wants to make a political point. Do you have the required smoke detectors in your home? I am sure most people don't and unfortunately people get burned!

I agree with Ms. Harrison. Our Town is also doing assessments. It was not convenient for me to allow access twice. Perhaps it was the same for Ms. Lee. If she was not at home, staff should not allow access without her consent. It seems to me the media is focusing too much on her privacy, the size of her home, her relationship with the Gov. which is none of anyones business - and should perhaps focus more on real news and issues of town and state. This is not news - it is gossip, you do not have all the details, yet you 'report'. There are SO many stories and events and legislature to report on in Westchester - seems to me you need to decide what is news worthy.

You are making excuses for people who have been downright predatory to NY citizens and business owners. Sandra Lee isn't some innocent little blond and Cuomo can't pretend he doesn't fully understand the assessment process - BTW if that's so mind bending for him why is he our Gov?!?! Net net - ANYONE who works on their homes MUST have permits. The work must be inspected (for safety reasons and valuation) which may or may not increase one's taxes. That is the law and these two should be bending over backwards to follow it and set an example, not flouting it like the brazen hypocrites they are.

You pay those real property taxes Missy. Haha.

There are many people who do work in their homes without permits and opening one's doors to a review can be costly. Journal and other reports should not just single out the politicians. Cuomo is neither married to Lee or shares ownership. As for assessments, everyone needs to be reassessed especially when the value of a home goes down. You don't have to be Governor to get an unfair advantage over others. I live in a Co-op and being on a Board has its perks.