Presidents Co-op Council Continues to Address Issues

The Presidents Co-op Council has continued to hold meetings and be in contact with elected officials as they work together to address potential problems faced by cooperatives and condos in Queens.

Close to 40 cooperatives, including North Shore Towers, that represent more than 21,000 apartments are part of the council.

“I think there’s tremendous strength in numbers,” Towers Board President Bob Ricken said about the council. “I think that gets the attention of our elected officials.”

Strength in numbers isn’t the only benefit Ricken feels the Towers is getting from its involvement with the Presidents Co-op Council. He said that there are many knowledgeable and articulate individuals involved who Ricken said are “almost like a consultant” for them and that they help keep them aware of the issues.

One issue receiving a great deal of attention is the real estate tax assessments. Ricken said there seems to be “no rhythm or reason” for the figures released by the New York City Department of Assessment.

“In a real estate market that we have had for the last two years…finding our real estate worth more when it’s clearly worth less is bizarre,” Ricken said.

Board members Phyllis Goldstein and Claire Levitan recently represented North Shore Towers at a Whitestone meeting of mostly co-op presidents and residents where New York City Commissioner of Finance David Frankel was in attendance. Goldstein said he shared a PowerPoint presentation about how the real estate taxes are calculated, but the big discussion was on the comparables for each complex that are used as the base for these calculations.

For instance, Goldstein said that they do not know what building North Shore Towers is being compared to when its taxes are calculated.

“I found the meeting very informative,” Goldstein said.

The state gives co-ops real estate rebates that are supposed to make up for the inequitable tax between cooperatives and private homes.

“That’s a yearly one-shot deal,” Ricken said. “It doesn’t make up for the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars more in taxes we are paying as a co-op rather than if we were an individual homeowner.”

Cooperatives and condos are taxed at 45 percent of their assessed values while private dwellings are taxed at 6 percent of their assessed values, Goldstein explained.

Legislation is being drafted that would change the classification of cooperatives so that they too would be taxed as private residences. Ricken said he feels the legislation would be beneficial, although he has doubts that it will be able to pass.

“I think it’s a long shot but I think we could never get it individually,” he said. “Collectively we’ve got a shot.”

The Towers has already begun its certiorari process to try to reduce its assessment, Ricken said.

In addition to the assessments, the council is also looking at other bills that Ricken said “would absolutely kill” cooperatives. He also said that, should some of the items go through, maintenance would have to be raised in order to complete jobs that the city determines need to be done.

Ricken pointed out that something like this has happened before. For instance, he said that last year the city decided that all water pipes in the basement had to be painted red, which he said “took many man hours” at the Towers because of the cooperative’s size.

One bill that the Presidents Co-op Council is urging the City Council to amend is the Energy Audit and Retrofits Bill, which went into effect in the beginning of 2011 and now has a rolling schedule. The council said that “co-ops will be forced to hire specialized energy auditors to review the energy usage of their buildings and make costly modifications.”

Other pieces of legislation being looked at are the Co-op/Condo Ombudsman Bill, the Fair and Prompt Residential Cooperative Disclosure Law and the Fair Cooperative Procedure Law.

The Presidents Co-op Council has been meeting regularly with elected officials and its members have been staying in touch. In addition to the meeting Goldstein and Levitan attended in March, in February Ricken went to a meeting where elected officials were present.

To illustrate the successfulness of the group so far, Ricken said they helped ensure that cooperatives would retain the right to have flip taxes. North Shore Towers received more than $700,000 from the flip tax in 2010.

“We won that battle, but that’s just battle number one,” he said.


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