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Hope for rebate yet - Pols push for $400 checks

The $400 property-tax rebate could be in your home for the holidays.

That was the optimistic prediction Brooklyn lawmakers gave residents this week as they signed off on a lawsuit compelling Mayor Michael Bloomberg to release the checks, which the city has already cut, as soon as possible.

“These checks belong to us,” said Councilmember Lew Fidler, who signed onto the lawsuit along with City Councilmember Vincent Gentile this week. Since Bloomberg put the kibosh on the checks, dozens of concerned homeowners have contacted Fidler’s office, wondering when they were going to get the money, he said.

“We’ve all been expecting [the checks] for a long time,” he said. “Some people may have been anticipating them and put off paying a bill knowing that the check would show up in the mail in the fall. This isn’t funny money that all of us were going to use as a down payment for a cruise. This money was going to be used to get people through the holidays.”

“Canceling these checks is outrageous and the height of insensitivity,” he said, adding that he hopes the lawsuit would compel Bloomberg to release the funds.

“If you don’t get them sooner, hopefully you will have them by the holiday season,” he said.

The lawsuit, the brainchild of Staten Island City Councilmember Vincent Ignizio, was presented before a Staten Island judge Wednesday.

Judge Philip Minardo filed an Order to Show Cause against the city, compelling them to explain the legality of their decision.

Both parties are expected to be back in court on December 11.

The litigants believe that the Mayor has no right to hold the checks once the City Council approved their distribution.

Residents throughout the city have been receiving property tax rebate checks every year since 2002, when property taxes were increased by 18.5 percent.

The Mayor contends that the city, which is facing a $4 billion shortfall in 2009 and 2010, could save $250 million if the checks don’t go out this year.

Standing by his decision, he didn’t seem too worried by his decision Wednesday.

“This is not going to be decided by litigation, this is going to be decided by the fiscal realities of us taking a look at all the alternatives as the economy develops,” he told reporters. “Obviously, we aren’t going to send out checks when we don’t have the money at the moment.”

But Gentile doesn’t believe the Mayor has the authority to stand by that decision.

“The suit basically says that he doesn’t have the power to do this and force him to give the money to where it belongs — to the taxpayer,” Gentile told members of the 62nd Precinct Community Council Tuesday.

Coney Island City Councilmember Domenic Recchia, who created an online petition demanding that the mayor release the checks, agreed.

“We’re saying to the Mayor let’s send out the rebate checks then talk about what to do next year,” he said. “We’re going to fight hard to get those $400 checks back.”

As of Thursday evening, Recchia’s petition had 5,748 signatures attached to it.

Anyone interested in signing onto the petition can do so by logging onto http://www.petitiononline.com/rebate/petition.html.

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