By Bob Friedrich
On Thursday, April 12 at North Shore Towers, more than 900 angry co-op & condo owners assembled at a Town Hall meeting organized by the Presidents Co-op & Condo Council (PCCC). It was the largest such gathering ever held in Queens. The demand was simple: fairness and equity in how their property taxes are calculated.
The PCCC is a think tank and action committee of volunteer board presidents representing 100,000 co-op and condo residents in eastern Queens. Their mission is to keep New York’s last bastion of affordable housing alive and well, a task that is becoming increasingly difficult as the battle between co-op owners and the Department of Finance (DOF) heats up after a second year of extraordinarily-high property valuation increases. The DOF Commissioner, an unelected bureaucrat, is making decisions TODAY that will profoundly affect co-op and condo owners TOMORROW, long after he is gone. Unless the Department of Finance can be reined in, the consequences of its actions will be felt by Queens co-op and condo owners in crushing maintenance increases that will be necessary to pay for the exploding property tax burdens being forced upon them.
Each year the DOF creates an assessed valuation for every building in NYC. These valuations are especially subjective when it comes to co-ops and condos and in the last two years have been significantly at odds with economic reality, especially in eastern Queens. Once the valuations are established, the city council passes a tax rate that is applied to the valuation of the property. So even if the city council does NOT raise the tax rate, it is being applied against a higher valuation. The result — higher property taxes while politicians take credit for not raising property tax rates. This insanity must end.
We are in the midst of the worst real estate decline in a generation. Housing prices have plunged to their lowest levels in a decade. It has been widely reported that Queens co-op prices continued to decline this past year. In fact, they fell a whopping seven percent in the last quarter of 2011. But in the fantasy world of the DOF, Queens co-op valuations increased an average of nine and 17 percent on the eastern Queens garden apartment co-ops. Just imagine what these numbers will look like when prices really begin to rise.
Co-ops like Parkwood Estates, Deepdale Gardens, Beech Hills, Alley Pond, Bay Terrace VIII and Glen Oaks Village had DOF imposed increases of 20 to 52 percent this year alone. And remember, this is in addition to the 50 percent property valuation increases that were imposed last year and which are now being phased in. Once they are fully phased in the DAY OF RECKONING will be upon us.
The time for real political leadership is now. These problems are man-made and can be solved by the men and women who created them. The PCCC under the co-leadership of Bob Friedrich, President of Glen Oaks Village and Warren Schreiber, President of Bay Terrace I and the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, will continue to lead this fight and chart a course to win this battle. It is a battle we cannot afford to lose.
Bob Friedrich is President of Glen Oaks Village, the largest garden apartment co-op in New York. He founded the President’s Co-op & Condo Council, a think tank of co-op and condo Board Presidents representing more than 100,000 people.