Property Tax Post: Robert De Niro to Ulster County, New York’s Property Assessment: “You Talkin’ to Me?”

Robert De Niro and his personal Riverside Trust are not coming across as goodfellas to the 5,800 residents of the city of Gardiner in upstate New York. De Niro’s trust, which owns the property, is challenging the $6 million assessment on his palatial 78-acre estate that only used to consist of an 18th-century farmhouse.

A New York trial court recently ruled in favor of the county assessor, rejecting the trust’s argument that comparable property should only be sought in Ulster County, where the median house price was $237,500 and the median household income was around $58,000 between 2008 and 2012.

De Niro purchased the residence in 1996 for $1.5 million. Since then, 20 acres have been added to the property along with a 14,000-square-foot recreation center with a basketball court, boxing ring, and film studio; two guest houses; a tennis court; a ski slope; and $1 million in landscaping that obscures the view of the property from the road.

The property tax bill on the initial $6 million assessment would come out to $170,000, with the town of Gardiner itself only receiving $27,000, and the rest going to the local school board and county. Gardiner has already spent more in legal fees than it stands to gain in tax revenue from a successful appeal. Despite the hardship to the city, a ruling in the city’s favor, an assessment of $8.985 million by an appraiser the city hired for the trial, a settlement offer by the city of less than the original assessment, and the fact that the most favorable ruling would only lower the property tax bill by $57,000, De Niro’s trust decided to appeal the case. 

Matt A.V. Chaban of the New York Times reported that Gardiner residents were initially on De Niro’s side, but have become annoyed at his determination to continue the proceedings. While De Niro is pretty sure you can’t milk a cat, some local residents may claim he has been insistent on milking the city of Gardiner of its finances.

Continue the conversation on Bloomberg BNA’s State Tax Group’s LinkedIn page.

By: George Lynch

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