On January 15th the New York City Department of Finance published tentative property tax assessments for Cooperatives and Condominiums, which are scheduled to become effective on July 1, 2011. Finance Commissioner David Frankel and the DOF were caught off-guard by the protests that followed plans to impose double and triple tax valuation increases upon Queens Co-ops and Condos.
However, only properties in selected areas of Queens, most of them located in the Northeast neighborhoods of the borough, were targeted for the arbitrary and capricious escalating tax rates. Similar housing developments in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx were not subject to the same financial burden.
The City of New York has taken the strategy of “Divide and Conquer” to a whole new level and completely ignored the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which calls for Equal Treatment Under the Law.
In a desperate attempt at spin control, Commissioner Frankel has claimed that many of the outrageous increases were the result of a “computer glitch.” Is that a new variation of the “dog ate my homework” excuse? The so-called glitchy computer put out exactly the numbers needed by the Mayor and DOF Commissioner to fund this back-door tax. The administration’s real mistake was in thinking that residents, community leaders and elected officials would remain silent while the city used co-ops and condos as their personal cash cow.
Co-ops and Condos are much more than merely block and lot numbers on a property tax map. There is a real human toll associated with these scandalous, unconscionable increases, which are passed on to shareholders and owners in the form of substantially higher carrying charges.
There is one glimmer of hope on the horizon. State legislation (S 4283) introduced by State Senator Stavisky and Assembly Member Ed Braunstein, which if passed into law would put an annual cap on co-op and condo property tax assessments. Co-ops and condos would finally be recognized as single-family dwellings and be assessed in the same manner as private homes. This would bring a much needed measure of financial predictability and stability to what is in large part the last bastion of middle class housing in New York City. As property taxes continue to rise, many long time residents including senior citizens and those on fixed incomes could be forced from their apartments and young families may be unable to make an investment in their future.
When elected officials and housing advocates talk about “affordable housing,” they need look no further than our co-op and condo communities.
I call upon the City of New York to maintain co-op and condo tax assessments at their 2010-2011 levels while (S 4283) is working its way through the state legislature.