CityLights fighting to keep LIC tower affordable

CityLights fighting to keep LIC tower affordable
Residents of CityLights co-op are fighting an expiring tax abatement and skyrocketing assessed values to stay in their Long Island City home.
Photo by Mark Hallum
By Mark Hallum

Residents of the CityLights co-op in Long Island City are pressuring city and state officials to preserve the affordability of the tower with the tax abatement on the property scheduled to expire this year.

Many in the building at 4-74 48th Ave, who moved in up to two decades ago, are feeling the heat as their living expenses are set to spike by about $1,000 a month while the assessed value of the building has already gone up 87 percent.

State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) held a rally on the step of City Hall Tuesday, calling on the de Blasio administration to approve renegotiations with Empire State Development, the owner of the land on which the tower sits.

“CityLights residents are the pioneers that helped make Long Island City so desirable. It would be an outrage to allow them to be priced out of the neighborhood they helped build. All levels of government must work together to find a solution to this crisis,” Gianaris said. “CityLights tenants are facing major increases in taxes as a 20-year abatement on their building expires. Monthly charges for some tenants may increase by $1,000 or more. The city must give consent for them to negotiate a new agreement with Empire State Development, the original signatory to their abatement deal.”

CityLights residents have been making their voices loud and clear in recent weeks with a group of co-op owners demonstrating along the waterfront as city and state elected officials cut the ribbon on the newly redeveloped Hunters Point South Waterfront Park June 27.

“When we moved out [to Long Island City] there was absolutely nothing here but old warehouses; actually the first question I asked the broker is ‘Is it safe?’ All of these people moved in and built a community and built a neighborhood,” said Joann Rock, the president of CityLights’ board of directors. “So our tax bill went from $3 million to $5.8 million [per year]… Newer shareholders have big mortgages, so they’re going to be paying $7,000 a month to carry a two-bedroom in a co-op when they could rent one for less.”

Rock said the assessed value of CityLights co-ops is based on the surrounding buildings, which are luxury high-rises that have gone up in recent years.

“We don’t have the amenities they have and yet we’re being valued based on them,” Rock said. “What we’re trying to do is actually get the state to reopen the [the agreement with Empire State] and renegotiate it.”

The contract with the pilot is on state land, so it would have to be renegotiated with the state. The city, however, must sign off to allow the state to do that.

“Representatives from city and state agencies must come up with a solution to help the residents of Citylights. An 87 percent increase in the assessed value is simply unacceptable,” state Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Long Island City) said. “NYS and the Queens West Development Corporation have proposed a possible resolution, but New York City and the Department of Finance need to either support it or put forward their own proposal.”

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall[email protected]glocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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