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Co-op tax revolt – QNS.com

Co-op tax revolt

Queens co-op owners better be holding on to their wallets because they are in for a rough ride. The City of New York has released its annual property assessment valuation reports from which property taxes are computed and it’s not a pretty sight.

The reports released by the Department of Finance (DOF) show staggering single-year property value increases in co-ops throughout Queens. The increases – as high as 122 percent in Le Havre co-op, 96 percent in Clearview Gardens, 86 percent in Glen Oaks Village to name just a few– are inconceivable and simply devoid of any economic reality.

The property valuations ascribed to the co-ops in eastern Queens are terribly flawed and poised to create catastrophic increases in monthly co-op maintenance fees that are paid by tens of thousands of families.

Like a junkie in need of a fix, New York’s ravenous appetite for revenue knows no bounds and is threatening to destroy our city’s last bastion of affordable housing – its co-op communities. The consequence of these flawed valuations will force co-ops to impose crushing monthly maintenance increases on their owners to pay for them. The inevitable result will be enormous hardship for working-class families, seniors and renters alike.

In early February, the Presidents Co-op Council, an affiliation of volunteer co-op and condo board presidents representing more than 75,000 residents in eastern Queens, held a summit to discuss this latest assault on the middle-class and plan a Queens Tax Revolt which is now gaining traction.

The board presidents called for an immediate suspension of these crippling property assessments slated to take effect on July 1, 2011. The reckless disregard for accurate property valuations is a stunning example of the disconnect between faceless bureaucrats and our families.

To head off this train wreck waiting to happen, the co-op presidents are preparing to file a lawsuit against the City of New York on behalf of their respective co-ops to halt the imposition of these confiscatory property assessment valuation numbers.

The Board Presidents who have seen their property values decline, believe the city’s valuation numbers showing double-digit value increases are arbitrary and capricious and lack any economic reality. A lawsuit would insure transparency and expose the DOF’s flawed formulas and calculations that created these wildly-inflated valuations.

The system currently in place to challenge these valuations is riddled with inequity. A co-op challenging the accuracy of its assessment will incur enormous legal fees from the specialized tax certiorari attorneys who charge one-third of any future tax savings that come from a negotiated reduction in assessed valuation.

Even if a co-op is successful and receives an offer of reduction from the city, it is likely that the reduction will be insufficient — because the starting point of the negotiation was so high. So reducing an assessment increase from 100 percent to 50 percent is unlikely to be acceptable to most co-op presidents.

If a co-op chooses to continue its challenge, the city inserts a “poison pill” into the process, making it all but impossible to continue. To do so, the co-op’s assessed valuation would revert back to the original flawed amount – which for many of the Queens co-ops, means increases of 50 to 100 percent or more.

Working class families and seniors are ill-equipped to afford such devastating increases. To make matters worse, there is no requirement that the city reach a decision in a timely manner on the co-op’s challenge to its valuation assessment. The co-op may wait years for a resolution. And should the co-op succeed in its challenge, the city will issue a property tax refund. Unfortunately, by that time – it’s too late, the damage to families, seniors and our co-op communities will have been severe and irreversible.

The city must stop this insanity, and rescind these flawed valuation numbers before we destroy more of our treasured affordable-housing communities.

Bob Friedrich is president of Glen Oaks Village, the largest garden apartment co-op in New York with 3,000 apartments. He also founded the Presidents Co-op Council, a think tank of co-op and condominium board presidents in eastern Queens representing 75,000 residents.

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