Update: Feb. 24, 11:30 a.m.: Councilman Mark Weprin, D-Oakland Gardens, announced this morning that his office filed a state Freedom of Information request to the city Department of Finance regarding what amounted to a 150 percent property tax hike for some cooperative buildings in northeast Queens.
“Some Queens co-ops have seen their market values increase 50 to 150 percent this year according to the Department of Finance,” Weprin said in a statement. “An increase of that magnitude in one year suggests a severe flaw in the system.”
Area elected officials joined northeast Queens co-op shareholders to call for action against a steep annual increase in their property taxes — a hike they called a 'hidden tax' on middle-class city homeowners.
Sent earlier this month, the large year-to-year boost in city property tax estimates affected many northeast Queens cooperative apartment buildings, including Glen Oaks Village, which saw its assessed value jump 86 percent from tax years 2010-2011 to 2011-2012, according to co-op president Bob Friedrich.
"What this is going to mean is that the property tax for co-ops will also go up, and that is what makes this so outrageous," said state Sen. Toby Stavisky, D-Flushing, joining co-op board members in Bay Terrace yesterday to call for City Hall to roll back the increases.
Stavisky wrote a letter Feb. 2 to the city Finance Department commissioner David Frankel blasting the assessment boost for Queens co-ops, which comes despite the fact that many co-op and condo owners are still selling units for far less than they would have garnered at the height of the housing market in 2006-2007.
Property owners have until March 1 to contest the city's tax assessments. However, Stavisky wanted the city to go a step further and pay court costs for co-op, condo and homeowners she said were "unfairly targeted" by the increases.
Residents of co-op buildings at Friday's press conference framed the issue of the recent assessment hikes as part of a continued assault by City Hall against one of the last bastions of affordable housing, with lower-income, elderly and the borough's youngest property owners disproportionately affected by the increases.
"It seems like for some reason were are always under financial assault," said Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Alliance, a civic group he said represented approximately 5,000 families living in co-ops and condos. "Whether it's these tax assessments, which is basically a 'back-door' tax."
Also at yesterday's press conference, state Sen. Tony Avella, D-Bayside, called on the city Department of Finance to reevaluate this year's tax assessment increases and for the City Council to take another look at tax classifications which many co-op residents said unfairly favors single-family homeowners.
Walter Mugdan, president of the Westmoreland Association, reported that he had not heard of any large property tax assessment fluxuations in this single-family enclave near the Queens-Nassau county border.
"For me, it went down a little bit further, which didn't strike me as being out of the ordinary," Mugdan said.
In New York City, tax assessments are generally a fraction of a property's market value. Mugdan speculated that this most recent round of assessment increases might be an attempt by the city to bring assessed value more in line with market values — even if that meant raising taxable rates as property values continue to plateau or even decline across the five boroughs.
At yesterday's gathering in front of a co-op on Bell Boulevard in Bay Terrace, Avella was much more skeptical as to the city's motives for bringing assessed co-op and condo values back to a level not seen since the housing boom.
"It makes you wonder if this is another Mike Bloomberg revenue measure, trying to raise money from those who can least afford it," Avella said.