Sunday, May 1, 2011

Mark Weprin Leads Property Tax "Revolt" at City Hall

left to right: Bay Terrace President Warren Schreiber, Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Council Member Mark S. Weprin, and Assemblymember David I. Weprin lead a “tax revolt” at City Hall against outrageous real property tax assessment increases.
New York City Council Member Mark S. Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens), founder of the City Council Co-op and Condo caucus, stood with Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Senator Tony Avella, Assemblymember Edward C. Braunstein, Assemblymember Grace Meng, Assemblymember David I. Weprin, Council Member Daniel J. Halloran, Council Member Peter Koo, co-op shareholders, and co-op board members and presidents from Eastern Queens to protest the outrageous increases in real property tax assessments on co-ops and condos. They called on Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Department of Finance Commissioner David M. Frankel to rescind the increases because they are arbitrary, inconsistent, and unfair.

“These increases cannot stand,” said Council Member Mark S. Weprin. “As an official who represents tens of thousands of co-op and condo residents, I will continue to fight for tax equity.”

The rally and property tax “revolt” took place in advance of City Council Finance hearings to be held on Monday, May 2 at 10 AM at 250 Broadway. At that time, Council Members will call on Commissioner Frankel to explain how he can justify the increases or rescind them immediately.

Since the New York City Department of Finance (DOF) released its real property tax assessments earlier this year, there has been considerable and well-justified angst on the part of Queens co-op and condo boards. When DOF changed the valuation methods, some co-ops saw their valuations rise by as much as one hundred fifty percent, at a time when property values are basically flat. DOF later agreed to limit increases to fifty percent.

“I am a shareholder in a co-op where valuation skyrocketed one hundred forty-seven percent this year, and then DOF decided to cap increases at fifty percent, for this year only,” said Senator Toby Ann Stavisky. “Fifty percent is totally arbitrary and is still a very large increase on middle class families.”

It has also been reported that a computer glitch at DOF was responsible for some of the unusually high assessments.

“The failure of DOF to recognize its mistakes for three months, only to ultimately blame all of its failures on a computer glitch, is simply unacceptable,” said Assemblymember Edward C. Braunstein. “It's time for DOF to abandon its effort to balance New York City’s budget on the backs of co-op owners in Queens.”

"Our ongoing fiscal recovery depends on our neighbors being secure in their homes and able to afford their groceries and medications,” said Assemblymember Grace Meng. “This plan doesn't allow for that; it's simply pickpocketing."

“The City’s formula for valuing these properties doesn’t add up,” said Council Member Daniel J. Halloran. “This is just a hidden co-op tax on my constituents.”

Council Member Peter Koo said, "DOF stated that a computer glitch is the cause for a one hundred forty-seven percent tax assessment increase for co-ops and condos in Queens. This is an unacceptable answer, and whatever glitch occurred should be corrected and assessments re-evaluated.”

"DOF was caught red-handed using commercial properties to value residential co-ops,” said Bob Friedrich, President of Glen Oaks Village Owners. “The Presidents Co-op Council, an affiliation of fifty co-op Board Presidents in Queens, is calling for an independent investigation and is preparing to file a lawsuit if these flawed valuations are imposed."

“Co-ops and condos represent a last bastion of middle class housing in New York City,” said Warren Schreiber, President of Bay Terrace Cooperative, Section One. “As property taxes continue to rise, many long-time residents could be forced from their apartments.”

There may also be a need to correct the underlying issue with legislation at the state level.

"I have introduced legislation to reclassify certain property held in cooperative form," said Assemblymember David I. Weprin. “This will better reflect that the units are primary residences, not investment properties.”