Niskayuna auto shop pays sales taxes, reopens

Smith's Garage on Aqueduct Road in Niskayuna is open for business Tuesday. (Peter R. Barber/Gazette Photographer)Smith's Garage on Aqueduct Road in Niskayuna is open for business Tuesday. (Peter R. Barber/Gazette Photographer)

BY REBECCA ISENHART
Gazette Reporter

NISKAYUNA — A local automotive business has reopened after a brush with seizure by the state for missing a sales tax payment.

Smith’s Automotive, located at 2867 Aqueduct Road near the Rexford Bridge, was closed from May 6 to Monday, May 11. Neon orange signs that read “Seized” in bold lettering glared out at passers by from the shop’s windows.

“I was on a payment plan and missed a payment, so they seized the building,” owner Charles “Skip” Smith, Jr. said.

Smith is a second-generation owner of the business, which opened in 1939 and moved to its Mohawk River location in the 1950s. He started working as a mechanic there after high school in the 1970s and took over from his father, Charles Sr., in the 1980s.

Typically when the state seizes a business, the owner is locked out of the property and a waiting period begins while the state considers whether the property can be sold at fair market value to cover the cost of whatever its owner owes. During that time, if the owner can repay the state, the business is returned and reopens.

Smith said he was able to borrow the money he owed and work things out with the state.

“I mean I don’t think they want to seize this building and sell it,” he said. “They’re not in that business if they can help it.”

Though the terms of Smith’s payment plan noted that a missed payment would void the agreement, he and the state were able to renegotiate.

James Gazzale, assistant public information officer for the state Department of Taxation and Finance, said the department’s protocol involves communicating with business owners to seek a positive outcome like Smith’s.

“Seizing a business is obviously the last resort for us,” Gazzale said. “Even after we seize a business, we’re still in communication with [owners] looking to get them the keys back so they can reopen.”

It’s a solution for the moment, though Smith still seems a bit concerned about the future.

“Money’s been wicked tight. Terribly tight,” he said. “Business has been down.

“I owe some other money, so I’ve just got to figure out how to make that happen,” he added. “Hopefully business will improve and we’ll be back on track.”

Smith said he suspected the especially cold winter had been tough on locals’ wallets and hoped warmer weather would bring an upswing. But for the moment, he was just happy to be back at work.

“Were definitely glad to be back open. There’s no doubt about that,” he said.