BY N. CLARK JUDD
Rep. Eliot Engel makes a point of telling his constituents that he’s a lifetime son of the borough.
But the truth is, he’s been two-timing the borough with a home in Maryland that he has claimed as a primary residence for tax purposes for the last 10 years, racking up $5,000 in credits.
Mr. Engel has never denied his almost million-dollar home in Potomac, Md., an upper-crust suburb just beyond the Beltway, but has never called it his primary residence in public.
Mr. Engel’s Bronx residence is a Riverdale rental apartment.
Recently, though, the Engels had their tax credit taken away by Maryland’s tax agency, The Associated Press reported last week.
Roberta Ward, of the Montgomery County office of the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation, said that the credit was also revoked for the Engels’ 2005 property taxes.
“It was brought to our attention that a lot of congressmen were getting [the credit] who shouldn’t,” Ms. Ward said.
Mr. Engel’s wife provided a Maryland tax return as proof of residency and the credit was reinstated.
After a change in the law in 2007, the Engels would have to re-apply for the credit and provide Maryland drivers’ licenses, Ms. Ward said.
“I have always abided by whatever determination the Montgomery County Assessment Office makes,” Mr. Engel, who shares the Bronx with Rep. Jose Serrano and also represents parts of Westchester and Rockland counties, said in a statement. “My house is currently classified as ‘non-owner occupied.’ I have never asked for any special privileges for being a Congressman.”
Where Mr. Engel lives doesn’t seem to be of much concern to the Riverdale political establishment.
He was expected at a Sunday morning breakfast event at the Riverdale YM-YWHA, but told one of the emcees, state Supreme Court Justice Mark Friedlander, that he had to be in Florida instead.
Mr. Friedlander assured the crowd that Mr. Engel was in Florida to check in on his chief of staff, William Weitz, who is recovering in Miami after a tour vehicle he was on in the Carribean ran off the road and crashed.
The congressman was not establishing another primary residence, Mr. Friedlander joked at the Riverdale Jewish Community Council’s 25th annual Legislative Awards Breakfast.
Mr. Friedlander said he could forgive Mr. Engel on the residence issue because the congressman was an effective legislator for Riverdale and for Israel.
“Most people can’t put themselves in the shoes of a congressman, mainly that they’re forced to live in two different places,” Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said Monday. “Unless we want our congressmen sleeping in cardboard boxes in the streets of Washington … they have to have a place to live in the Washington area.”