A recent Community Board 7 meeting with Department of Finance (DOF) commissioner David M. Frankel erupted in controversy as the chair of the board called on police officers to silence an outspoken critic of the department’s latest co-op value assessments.
Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village, and several local elected officials representing northeast Queens, have been fighting against the DOF’s property value assessments on co-ops, which in turn have increased property taxes.
In State Senator Toby Stavisky’s case, her co-op’s market value increased by 147 percent.
The department recently agreed to cap these increases at 50 percent, but Stavisky remains unsatisfied. She compared the decrease to drinking half a glass of arsenic versus a full one.
“No matter how you look at it, it’s poison,” she said.
Frankel had admitted to Councilmember Mark S. Weprin that Queens was under-valued
in past assessments.
“Why should DOF punish co-op shareholders for its own past mistakes?” said Weprin. “DOF should phase in major systemic changes over time instead of hitting taxpayers with huge increases all at once.”
Owen Stone, spokesperson for the DOF, noted that the department assesses the valuations on co-ops based on income per square foot of comparable rental properties.
According to testimony Frankel issued to the City Council Committee on Finance, the DOF instituted a computerized system called CAMA 2 to assist in these valuations.
“The application systematized how we select the comparable properties that are used to value co-ops and condos, using factors such as building class, location, size and building age,” said Frankel.
In last year’s co-op assessment, the comparable properties for 73-43 Little Neck Parkway were buildings classified as C-9 walk-up apartments, according to a report obtained from the DOF web site. The co-op itself is designated as a C-6 walk-up. Its market value was determined to be $5,410,000.
However, for the 2011 to 2012 fiscal year, the same property was compared to storefronts, inflating its market value to $7,263,000. One of these comparable properties, located on 237-37 Jamaica Avenue, was erroneously listed with a C-6 classification in the DOF report. A search in the Department of Buildings database showed that the building actually bears a K-4 classification, indicative of a store with apartments above it.
Also listed as C-6 on the DOF report, another comparable property on 44-31 Douglaston Parkway is actually classified as K-2, meaning it is a two-story store.
Several other co-ops in northeast Queens were subjected to assessments using comparable properties with incorrect building classifications, based on DOF report.
Friedrich claimed that selecting commercial properties further inflated the increases on the co-ops.
“It’s clear that the basis of the new calculation method is flawed and that DOF has to modify it,” said Weprin. “To say that market values are up 50 or 100 percent flies in the face of the reality of the current real estate market.”
“When the unruly peasants dare to speak up…we irritate them and they ask us to be quickly whisked away,” said Friedrich.
Weprin also has filed a Freedom of Information request to the DOF over a month ago to divulge the specifics on the new methods employed to derive these assessments. As of press time, this information has not yet been released.