By Mark Hallum
The J-51 tax abatement cap for co-op maintenance assessments was increased to $32,000 Friday when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill by state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) into effect. The legislation is designed to remove some of the financial burden from middle-class and elderly co-op and condo owners as necessary maintenance and updates are made to their homes. The percentage cap for the assessment will be tied to the cost-of-living increase as needed.
According to Avella, co-op owners were eligible for the tax abatement if their assessment was below $40,000. But the limit dropped dramatically in 2013 to $30,000, disqualifying many middle-income families.
“The cost of living in New York is always on the rise, making it difficult for middle-class families to afford living in the state. Cutting the qualification threshold for the J-51 tax abatement from $40,000 to $30,000 in 2013 was a step in the complete opposite direction” Avella said. “The increase that was signed into state law today will allow more middle-class co-op and condo owners to qualify for the J-51 abatement and will ensure that threshold stays relevant in the years to come.”
The bill to increase the J-51 tax abatement was passed in the state Senate and Assembly in July and mainly targets senior citizens living on Social Security who may feel the greatest strain because their benefits are not increasing in the face of rising costs of maintenance and updates.
“Over time as assessments continue to rise, more and more co-op units have fallen out of the J-51 program,” Braunstein said. He pointed out that the legislation ties the abatement “to the cost-of-living adjustment percentage so the cap can keep increasing over the years, helping middle-class families afford the cost of capital improvements.”
Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village Co-op, spoke of the importance of this legislation at the unveiling of the bill in July. New weather-resistant windows had just been installed at Glen Oaks Village.
“Without the J-51 program, monthly maintenance would have had to increase 16 percent to fully pay for these new windows, which would have been devastating to many of our seniors and working class families. This issue is not sexy and does not garner much conversation around the dinner table, but is truly one of the most important programs that help keep our affordable co-ops affordable,” Friedrich said.
Avella said a previous attempt with the city to raise the qualification level to $50,000 was rejected by the de Blasio administration. Mayor Bill de Blasio, however, issued a statement in support of the increase to $32,000.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall