Tag Archives: co-op

Co-op, condo owners have one month before city can take away tax abatement


| mchan@queenscourier.com


Some co-op and condo owners have one month to prove their residency before the city takes away their tax abatement benefits.

According to co-op leaders, a large number of residents have received a notice in the mail from the city’s Department of Finance (DOF) stating they have until April 1 to verify their apartment unit is their primary residence in order to quality for their full abatement.

“Our records show that this unit is not your primary residence, so your abatement will be phased out,” the notice reads.
But co-op presidents said residents who received the letter have been predominantly living in their apartments for decades. The notice, leaders said, stems from the department’s poor record keeping.

“In true fashion, this is the Department of Finance’s inability to get their act together,” said Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village Owners. “It doesn’t surprise me that the [DOF] shows themselves to be an agency that is shockingly out of touch with the average taxpayer.”

The abatement loss could cost residents from $300 to $1,000, co-op presidents said.

According to Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, a DOF system glitch allows abatement credits to be transferred to new co-op owners when a previous owner moves out. Many times, the new owner is not eligible for those abatements but still benefits from them.

DOF spokesperson Owen Stone said that happens because there are no deeds involved. The transfer of credits is not reversed until co-op boards report the discrepancies to the department.

In regards to the abatement notice, Stone said the DOF is “working to ensure that those who qualify for the benefit receive it.”

Residents have four weeks from when the form was mailed to complete and return it, he said.

Friedrich said he fears residents who are away for the winter will miss the deadline and lose their abatements.

 

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Legislators come thru for co-op, condo owners


| mchan@queenscourier.com


State leaders will end up keeping their pledge to co-op and condo shareholders in the city.

According to Governor Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the Legislature has reached an agreement on tax relief legislation and will sign it into law when officials return to Albany.

The city will also issue tax bills based on new and lower rates, they said, and the tax abatement — which reduces the difference in property taxes paid by Class 2 co-op and condo properties and one, two and three family homes in Class 1 — will be retroactive.

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky said the J-51 program, which gives owners partial property tax exemptions for capital improvements, will also be extended to June 30, 2015.

These assurances come after widespread panic in co-op and condo communities at the end of June, when the Legislature adjourned session without extending the city’s J-51 program and the expired abatement. Fear mounted in November after elected officials said the Legislature would not reconvene to pass promised relief.

Assemblymember Ed Braunstein said the Legislature would likely pass his bill, which would increase abatements for middle class co-op owners from 17.5 percent to 25 percent this year and over 28 percent in three years, based on assessments.

Legislature leaves co-op, condo owners in the lurch


| mchan@queenscourier.com


City co-op and condo owners may have to ante up more in taxes after lawmakers said the state Legislature may not reconvene this year to pass promised relief.

“We had hoped the Legislature would meet and pass the annual abatement. It looks like we’re not going back,” said State Senator Tony Avella. “It’s going to be a huge cost to co-op and condo owners and a retreat from everything that we’ve worked on thus far.”

Co-op and condo community leaders said the state Legislature left them high and dry at the end of June, when lawmakers adjourned the session without extending the city’s J-51 program and its tax abatement program, which expired June 30. A bill that would put a halt to skyrocketing property tax valuations was also not addressed by the end of the session, they said.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the Assembly, Senate and Governor Andrew Cuomo had reached an agreement in July on “landmark” tax relief legislation that would be signed into law later this year when legislators return to Albany.

But lawmakers now say the Legislature may not meet before the year is out, meaning co-op and condo owners may have to brace for bigger tax bills in January.

“I’m very disappointed. They all agreed that a special session would be called, and it’s obviously not happening,” said Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village Owners, Inc. “This just goes to show that actions speak louder than words, especially when it comes to politics.”

Friedrich said his community could lose out on about $1 million, which he said would eventually come out of shareholders’ wallets.

“In an economic environment like this, people can’t afford these massive increases,” he said. “It would be crushing.”

The J-51 program gives owners partial property tax exemptions for capital improvements, and the abatement reduces the difference in property taxes paid by Class 2 co-op and condo properties and one, two and three family homes in Class 1 — which are assessed at a lower percentage of market value.

Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, said residents would pay up to an additional $1,200 a year in maintenance costs without the abatement.

“If the state of New York wants to drive affordable housing out of the city, it’s very easy,” he said. “Don’t renew the tax abatements. But if you want us to stay, do it, and it’s not that difficult. All it takes is going back to Albany and having a vote.”

The governor’s office did not respond to calls for comment.

According to a summary report released by the Department of Finance (DOF) this year, taxes are expected to rise by 7.5 percent for co-op owners and 9.6 percent for condo owners across the city. Last year, officials said, some co-op and condo valuations saw astronomical increases as high as 147 percent.

A pair of audits also released this year by the city comptroller’s office found the DOF at fault for causing upheavals in condo and co-op property values — a determining factor in property taxes — when it changed its formula for calculating them in fiscal year 2011-12.

‘Landmark’ tax relief on the way for co-op and condo owners


| mchan@queenscourier.com


Co-op and condo owners left in the lurch after state lawmakers originally closed the year’s session without passing key pieces of legislation will not be forsaken for long, officials pledged.

The Assembly, Senate and Governor Andrew Cuomo have reached an agreement on “landmark” tax relief legislation that will be signed into law later this year when legislators return to Albany, according to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

“In the short term, the city has issued tax bills for the current fiscal year based on the current tax abatement rates,” Silver said. “When the legislation is signed into law as promised by the governor, we anticipate that the new lower rates will be effective retroactive to July 1.”

Co-op and condo community leaders said the state Legislature left them “high and dry” last week after lawmakers adjourned the session without extending the city’s J-51 program and its tax abatement program. A bill that would put a halt to skyrocketing property tax valuations was also not addressed by the end of the session, they said.

The J-51 program gives owners partial property tax exemptions for capital improvements, and the abatement reduces the difference in property taxes paid by Class 2 co-op and condo properties and one-, two- and three-family homes in Class 1 — which are assessed at a lower percentage of market value.

Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, said residents would pay up to an additional $1,200 a year in maintenance costs without the abatement. Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village Owners, Inc., also counted his potential losses, saying his community would lose out on about $1 million.

But local elected officials said co-op owners need not worry about tax increases in the near future. The abatement, which expired June 30, will be continued until the State Legislature reconvenes later this year to pass a new plan, they said.

Assemblymember Ed Braunstein said it was “highly likely” the legislature would also pass his bill, which would increase abatements for middle class co-op owners from 17.5 percent to 25 percent this year and over 28 percent in three years.

“Co-op owners should be encouraged that relief is right around the corner,” Braunstein said.

Meanwhile, co-op and condo community leaders said they remain hopeful for a more permanent, long-term fix on annual valuation spikes.

According to a summary report released by the Department of Finance (DOF) this year, taxes are expected to rise by 7.5 percent for co-op owners and 9.6 percent for condo owners across the city, while owners of single-family homes will see an increase of 2.8 percent. Last year, officials said, some co-op and condo valuations saw astronomical increases as high as 147 percent.

A pair of audits released this year by the city comptroller’s office found the DOF at fault for causing upheavals in condo and co-op property values — a determining factor in property taxes — when it changed its formula for calculating them in fiscal year 2011-12.

Still, a proposed “8/30” valuation cap — which would have limited property tax increases to 8 percent per year or 30 percent over five years — was not passed, and Friedrich said he does not expect a solution to be reached for another year.

“I am optimistic, but actions do speak louder than words,” he said.

Co-op, condo owners left in the lurch


| mchan@queenscourier.com


City co-op and condo owners were dealt a major blow by the State Legislature after lawmakers wrapped up the year’s session without passing three key bills, including one that would put a halt to skyrocketing property tax valuations.

“Three strikes and you’re out. This was a disastrous session if you’re a co-op or condo owner,” said Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village Owners, Inc. and cofounder of the President’s Co-op and Condo Council. “The State Legislature left us high and dry.”

State lawmakers had until June 21 to give bills the green light before reconvening next January. Governor Andrew Cuomo said the 2012 session was “one of the most successful in modern political history,” touting accomplishments reached in pension tiers, teacher evaluations and better protections for people with disabilities.

But co-op and condo community activists said legislative leaders adjourned the session without extending the city’s J-51 program, its tax abatement program and not resolving valuation issues. The lack of passage could rip holes through 360,000 residents’ pockets, they said.

“These three issues are not sensitive, political issues. It’s not controversial. It’s simply renewing existing laws that already have widespread support,” Friedrich said. “And yet the legislators, who are paid very well to do their job, came out empty handed.”

The city’s J-51 Program, in existence for decades, gave owners partial property tax exemptions to encourage them to renovate residential apartment buildings, while its property tax abatement program, established in 1996, reduced the difference in property taxes paid by Class 2 co-op and condo properties and one, two and three family homes in Class 1 — which are assessed at a lower percentage of market value.

Friedrich, who expected the abatement to be extended, said if a special session is not called this year to renew the program, Glen Oaks Village alone would lose out on about $1 million, which he said would eventually come out of shareholders’ wallets.

Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance and cofounder of the President’s Co-op and Condo Council, predicted similar revenue losses — which he said would lead to 17 to 25 percent maintenance increases for residents.

“We were all terribly disappointed. These were programs that we already had,” he said. “This will be economically devastating for some residents.”

According to a summary report released by the Department of Finance (DOF) this year, taxes are expected to rise by 7.5 percent for co-op owners and 9.6 percent for condo owners across the city, while owners of single-family homes will see an increase of 2.8 percent. Last year, officials said, some co-op and condo valuations saw astronomical increases as high as 147 percent.

A pair of audits released this year by the city’s comptroller office found the DOF at fault for causing upheavals in condo and co-op property values — a determining factor in property taxes — when it changed its formula for calculating them in Fiscal Year 2011-12.

A “8/30” cap proposed to relieve co-op and condo owners would have limited property tax increases to 8 percent per year or 30 percent over five years, but President’s Co-op and Condo Council officials said they do not expect a fix to be made for another year.

Meanwhile, rumors have been swarming that Cuomo will call lawmakers back to Albany for a special session before the year’s end, reportedly to approve the tax abatement extension.

Councilmember Mark Weprin said “for a fact” the abatement would be renewed and “improved” this year in the fall under Assemblymember Ed Brauinstein’s bill and an agreement with the state.

“It’s not a ‘major blow.’ Once it’s passed, it’ll be a huge victory,” Weprin said.

Despite the unofficial pledge, State Senator Tony Avella and Assemblymembers David Weprin and Mike Simanowitz announced they would be holding a press conference on Monday to rally for the abatement renewal.

Kew Gardens co-op Parkway Village now historic


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Assemblymember Rory Lancman

Parkway Village in Kew Gardens Hills — deemed worthy of preservation — has joined the nation’s official list of historic places.

“As a community struggling to survive and flourish in challenging economic times, it is gratifying for long-time Parkway residents like me to witness the official recognition of Parkway Village’s illustrious history,” said Judith Guttman, co-president of the Parkway Village Historical Society. “I’m proud to be a Villager.”

Parkway, a roughly 35-acre co-op community, was built in the late 1940s. The more than 60-year-old post-war garden complex was originally built to house UN staff members.

While proposals to designate Parkway as a landmark were rejected at least twice — in 1997 and 2000 — by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, it is now part of the National Register of Historic Places, a federal program aimed at protecting the country’s historic and archeological resources. Parkway also joins historic New York sites like Carnegie Hall, Central Park, the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge on the state’s Historic Registry.

“We all know how much overdevelopment threatens the character of historic neighborhoods like Parkway Village,” said Assemblymember Rory Lancman, who held a press conference on May 24 to commemorate the recognition. “Listing Parkway Village on the State and National Historic Registries is both a tremendous honor for its residents, and a sigh of relief for families in this area who want to see their neighborhoods and their quality of life preserved for future generations.”

To be eligible for listing on the register, properties must generally be at least 50 years old and still bear much resemblance to the way it looked in the past, according to the National Park Service. It must also have ties to important activities or people in history and have architectural and archeological significance for the future.

Parkway’s two- and three-story buildings — faced with red brick and lined with white columns and lintels — were once home to notable figures like diplomat Ralph Bunche and activists Betty Friedan and Roy Wilkins.

Properties listed on the register may be eligible for a 20 percent investment tax credit, including state and federal grants. They are also given consideration in planning for federal projects.

Audit finds co-op, condo property values inflated


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/PHOTOS

A series of missteps by the Department of Finance (DOF) caused drastic upward swings in co-op and condo property taxes, according to two audits released by the city’s comptroller office.

“The department failed to adequately explain significant changes it was making in the calculation of market values. What’s more, in numerous cases, they assigned arbitrary values to co-ops and condos, and in other cases made flat out errors,” said Comptroller John Liu.
According to a summary report released by the DOF this year, taxes are expected to rise by 7.5 percent for co-op owners and 9.6 percent for condo owners across the city, while owners of single-family homes will see an increase of 2.8 percent. Last year, officials said, some co-op and condo valuations saw astronomical increases as high as 147 percent.

The pair of audits, Liu said, found the agency at fault for causing upheavals in condo and co-op property values — a determining factor in property taxes — when it changed its formula for calculating them in Fiscal Year 2011-12. He also said the agency operated “in the dark” without warning the public of the consequences.

According to Liu, the DOF compounded the increases in market value by sticking many co-ops and condos with questionable values instead of comparing them to equivalent, nearby rental properties. The agency’s faulty computer system, Liu said, also led to flaws in assessments, in which a Brooklyn co-op was wrongfully compared to a parking lot, a Staten Island co-op to an adult care facility and a Flushing condo to a rental property in Far Rockaway.

At least 10 percent of all 859 co-op buildings in Queens received much higher property values than the DOF’s formula should have allowed, the comptroller said, including one co-op in Forest Hills that received a market value 227 percent higher than expected.

The DOF did not return The Courier’s calls for comment. However, according to Liu, the DOF said it ensures properties are valued properly and does not agree that properties were over-assessed or under-assessed. The agency, Liu said, agreed that “continual improvement of the modeling criteria for selection of comparable properties is appropriate.”

Breakdown of affected units by neighborhood:

BAYSIDE

14

BEECHHURST

3

BELLE HARBOR

1

CORONA

1

DOUGLASTON

6

FLUSHING-NORTH

11

FLUSHING-SOUTH

8

FOREST HILLS

3

GLEN OAKS

20

HOLLIS

2

HOLLIS HILLS

2

JACKSON HEIGHTS

2

JAMAICA

1

LITTLE NECK

3

OAKLAND GARDENS

5

QUEENS VILLAGE

1

REGO PARK

1

SOUTH JAMAICA

1

WHITESTONE

7

This Morning’s Headlines


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

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Fearless squirrels invade Queens co-op

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Rookie police officer arrested after assaulting fiancee in his Queens home

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NY Jets’ Tim Tebow attends Yankees-Angels game, sits with Dwyane Wade and gets booed by fans

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Relief proposed for co-op owners


| mchan@queenscourier.com


New legislation may lighten the load on co-op owners, while leaving their wallets heavy.

According to Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and Assemblymember Ed Braunstein, property owners can currently fight city tax assessments through a “certiorari” process, but they said it is often costly and incurs “excessive legal fees.”

“As a co-op shareholder, I understand this problem firsthand,” Stavisky said. “Inaccurate assessments and the high taxes they bring can cause serious problems for co-op boards and residents.”

That’s why the pair introduced legislation that, if passed, could see co-ops paying only 75 percent of their legal fees in a successful certiorari suit. The law would also stabilize assessments for two years following a successful challenge, capping spikes at 3 percent to prevent the necessity of an additional proceeding, officials said.

“Co-op shareholders deserve the right to have their day in court,” Stavisky said. “These bills will allow meritorious challenges and help ease the fear of inconsistent and inaccurate assessments. This legislation would encourage the city to be more careful when preparing projected assessments by having them pay 25 percent of the legal fees in a successful challenge. That change will have a tremendous impact on the quality of life in New York’s co-ops.”

Taxes are expected to rise by 7.5 percent for co-op owners this year, according to a summary report released by the Department of Finance (DOF). Last year, some co-op and condo valuations saw astronomical increases as high as 147 percent, and according to civic leaders in northeast Queens, some properties in the area — including Deepdale Gardens and Alley Pond — continue to suffer high double-digit spikes and some increases by more than 50 percent again this year.

“Many cooperatives and condominiums pay up to 35 percent of the savings gained through certiorari in fees to attorneys. There is no doubt that the fees are punitive in nature,” said Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance. “Certiorari filings not only appeal property valuations, they seek to correct assessment errors made by the city’s DOF. This legislation will level the playing field and ease what is already a heavy financial burden placed upon the shoulders of middle class residents living in cooperatives and condominiums.”

According to James Goldstick, managing agent for Bay Terrace Section 8, some co-ops will spend up to $35,000 in legal fees this year after shelling out close to $37,000 during last year’s tax certiorari settlements.

“It is outrageous that northeast Queens residents not only have been hit with monstrous assessment hikes during this difficult fiscal period, but that they also have to continue to bear the burden of inaccurate decisions made by the DOF,” Braunstein said.

The property tax increases are slated to take effect in July. Councilmember Dan Halloran called on the city to extend the March 1 deadline to contest valuations to March 15. However, DOF officials did not confirm whether or not the additional two weeks were granted.