Tag Archives: northeast Queens

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

Students’ posters aim to erase graffiti


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Michael Pantelidis

Senator Tony Avella is aiming to erase any thoughts of vandalism from the minds of the students in his district – and paint them a clear anti-graffiti picture.

The senator joined representatives from the Bayside Business Association (BBA) and students from across northeast Queens on December 15 for his first annual Anti-Graffiti Poster Contest.

“Graffiti is a problem we need to address,” said Avella. “There’s enforcement, there’s corrective action like painting over it and washing it off, but there’s also education. Getting to the kids when they’re in school to let them know graffiti is bad is one of the best ways to eliminate it over time, and having kids tell their fellow peers that graffiti is bad is the best way to do this. So getting the word out by students talking to students is a big thing, and hopefully it will lead to a reduction of graffiti in the future.”

Beginning in September, Avella’s contest encouraged students to create artwork against graffiti. The competition was available to students of all ages, providing a wide spectrum of artistic interpretations. Winners and runners-up were chosen from three categories: elementary, middle and high school. Lauren Lashley, who finished first in the high school division, says her work was inspired by personal experiences.

“[I was motivated by] the terrible graffiti signs I would find outside my house,” said the 17-year-old senior at Martin Van Buren High School, whose poster idea came to her in a dream. “It really bothered me, and I knew people that lived nearby and they were so frustrated about it.”

All 550 participants received merit certificates for entering the contest, and Avella will attempt to place the posters in prominent positions throughout his district.

Due to a donation from the BBA, winners also received $100, with a second place finish earning students $50.

“We always give to everything that we can in Bayside, and what better cause than to give to children and to foster their imaginations,” said Judith Limpert, president of the BBA. “Anti-graffiti is important because it affects everybody. It’s a blight on the peace and tranquility of a neighborhood. We are trying to do anything we can to get the children to realize not to do it because it’s not conducive to a nice place to live.”

The elementary school winners – Lauren and Meagan Lovett and Nicole Kardum – based their poster on the environmental hazards of graffiti. Despite their hard work, the fourth graders at P.S. 162 refuse to be selfish with their prize money.

“We would like to donate [our winnings] to breast cancer [foundations],” said Kardum. “We don’t want to keep the money. We want to do something good with it.”