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?"