‘New Blood’ vs. Experience

Joe Bloecker of Montauk, now a town trustee, is hoping to unseat the three-term incumbent, Eugene DePasquale, also of Montauk

    In the race for East Hampton Town assessor, Joe Bloecker of Montauk, now a town trustee, is hoping to unseat the three-term incumbent, Eugene DePasquale, also of Montauk.

    “I see a need for fresh blood there,” Mr. Bloecker said of the assessors office during a meeting at The Star last Thursday. “There hasn’t been a change there in 12 years.”

    The office has three elected assessors — Mr. DePasquale, who took office in 2002, and Jeanne Nielsen and Jill Massa, who have served even longer.

    “Every place I’ve gone, I’ve energized it,” Mr. Bloecker said, pointing to the Montauk Friends of Erin, the trustees, the Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee, and the town’s cancer task force, which he co-chaired, among his involvements.

    A Montauk resident for 37 years, he is married, with a daughter in college. Mr. Bloecker, a home-improvement contractor, has been a trustee for four years and also served a term in that post in the 1990s. “I’m a believer in term limits,” he said. “I think I did good work on the trustees, but there’s guys and girls who want to step up and I don’t want to hold them back.”

    Mr. Bloecker is a certified home inspector and held a real estate license in the early 2000s, both of which, he said, would add to his ability to do accurate and fair assessments. “I know about the mechanics of a home as well as the value. I’ve been a builder for years. It all comes into the common-sense analysis.”

    Mr. DePasquale is running on not only his 12 years of experience, but on the related education he pursued before and during his tenure in the assessors office.

    “I have a lot of education for this particular job,” he said at The Star on Friday. He graduated from Columbia University and has been a licensed real estate broker since the 1980s, although he does not currently work in the field. After taking office, he became a certified residential appraiser, licensed by the State of New York, and is also certified as an advanced assessor. He said he has a solid understanding of real estate tax law, assessment administration, exemption administration, and “how to deal with people.”

    “When I first took office, the majority of my work was in picking up assessments,” he said Friday. “A lot of construction was going on. There were so many building permits. Money was cheap, and people were just building houses.” At the time, he said, there were not a lot of grievance applications that led to small claims assessment review in Suffolk County Supreme Court. Now, however, most of his time is spent preparing those cases for review. He has prepared some 800 cases, he said.

    The assessors work with four administrative staffers and one part-timer. “We have the best staff in all of East Hampton,” Mr. DePasquale said.

    Grievance day, when homeowners or their representatives can seek adjustments in their tax bills if they feel their assessments are unfair, and the period leading up to it are times that Mr. DePasquale looks forward to. “That’s when I get to help people,” he said, explaining that he likes the opportunity to clearly explain the factors that play into a particular assessment and to help people who feel wronged understand how to present their cases.

    East Hampton has never had a townwide reassessment and the question of whether that would be a wise idea for the town is a perennial one for assessors, with some people believing it might bring more general equity across the board and others fearing that it would have a negative effect on people who could ill afford a higher assessment.

    After researching the matter, Mr. Bloecker said he is not sure it is the right time for such a move. “If you reassess, some people are going to get hurt, and more likely it’s the people you don’t want to hurt,” he said. “If we reassess every house in town and the town is revalued, our whole town could be up in value,” and that, he said, could hurt the town more than it could help. “School taxes hit people harder than town taxes . . . and unless you did a school consolidation that’s not going to change.”

    In a letter to this paper last week, Mr. DePasquale said, “There is no doubt that a reassessment will level the playing field,” but he also pointed out some of the challenges it would entail. “There needs to be open and sincere discussion throughout the town concerning a decision to reassess. It is a lengthy and detailed undertaking,” he wrote. “A well-thought-out and implemented plan needs to be in place long before the actual reassessment occurs.”

    Mr. DePasquale said he has gained invaluable knowledge about the intricacies of the work by doing it and developing systems for doing it better. “In my job as an assessor, I like to read, I like to think, I enjoy doing research. That’s the fun part. . . . There is indoor office work, outdoor work, then there’s the dealing with the public. It feels good when you can help people.”

    While Mr. Bloecker does not have some of the coursework Mr. DePasquale has on his résumé, he is confident he can learn quickly. “I work my tail off with anything I do. I’m looking forward to a new challenge,” he said last Thursday. “It’s a good place for me to fit in. . . . I think I’m going to win this and I think I’m going to do a really good job.”