The setting is a century-old mansion in bucolic Mount Pleasant. The cast is the ghoulish Addams Family. The setup is a clash between the macabre characters and earnest town officials.
Actually, the story is a bit less melodramatic. The Tee and Charles Addams Foundation has sued Mount Pleasant and the town assessor for denying a property tax exemption.
Gomez and Morticia Addams, their butler Lurch, Uncle Fester, Pugsley, Wednesday and her pet octopus Aristotle and the disembodied hand, Thing, are parties to the dispute only insofar as their drawings, created by artist Charles Addams, are housed in the foundation’s vast collection at Briarcliff Manor.
Addams died in 1988 and his widow, Marilyn “Tee” Addams, established the foundation and bequeathed the cartoons and other materials to the organization. She died in 2002.
The foundation was housed at the Addams estate, otherwise known as The Swamp, in Sagaponack, Suffolk County. After Superstorm Sandy devastated the region in 2012, the foundation decided to move the collection somewhere less vulnerable to flooding.
In 2019, it bought a 4.8-acre property and 10-room stone colonial, built in 1908, on Hardscrabble Road, Briarcliff Manor. It paid nearly $1.5 million in cash.
Within a few months, the complaint states, the entire collection will be moved to Briarcliff Manor. Already, the foundation claims, most of the house and the garage-workshop are used for storage and foundation business.
Executive Director H. Kevin Miserocchi — whose email handle includes “fester” and “thing” — lives in the mansion. He oversees cataloguing the collection, organizing exhibitions around the country and licensing the works for books, shows and movies.
He was paid $275,000 in salary and other compensation in 2019, according to the latest charitable tax return on file.
On May 27, the foundation applied for property tax exemption. The current town tax roll indicates that the property is assessed at $23,350 a year. A Zillow report puts the annual taxes at $52,604.
New York law, according to the complaint, allows for real estate to be exempted from property taxes if it is used exclusively for charitable purposes by nonprofit organizations.
The foundation was granted federal income tax exemption in 2000. It’s charitable purpose, according to the complaint, is to promote Addams’ art and make it available to the public “for cultural and artistic enjoyment.”
The house is not a museum, according to the complaint, but the property is used to fulfill its mission and to protect the collection and provide a place for interns to study the works.
On June 1, Mount Pleasant Assessor James J. Timmings denied an exemption. The foundation appealed to the Board of Assessment Review. On Sept. 14, the board upheld the denial with one sentence: “Insufficient documentary evidence submitted.”
The Addams Foundation argues that it qualifies for a tax exemption and that town officials failed to provide a rational basis or evidence to support their denial.
It is asking the court to declare the town’s decision as arbitrary and capricious and to direct the town to grant the exemption.
Timmings did not respond to an email requesting his side of the story.
The foundation is represented by Manhattan attorneys Christoper Rizzo, Pamela A. Mann and Nilima M. Singh.
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