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Is Tax Reform Coming?

Earlier this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the creation of the Advisory Commission on Property Tax Reform, which some feel was a response to an April 2017 lawsuit filed by Tax Equity Now New York, a coalition of civil rights groups and real-estate interests. The lawsuit claims that the current system imposes higher effective tax rates on renters and homeowners in less affluent neighborhoods than it does on owners of higher-value single-family homes, co-ops, and condos.

“We believe the commission was a response to the lawsuit,” says former city finance commissioner Martha Stark, who is TENNY’s policy director. “Without the lawsuit there would be no commission. There are a bunch of good people on it, but you know what they say: ‘A commission is a place where ideas go to die.’ The commission will have no effect on the lawsuit.” 

The 13-member commission has been holding hearings throughout the city. Its purpose, says co-chair Vicki Been, is to make the current property tax system, “fairer, simpler, and more transparent.” 

Mary Ann Rothman, executive director of the Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums (CNYC), testified before the commission. “The panel listened to all kinds of testimony,” she says, “much of which was really personal and sad – homeowners and co-op and condo board members who point out how incredibly much their taxes have gone up in just a few years.”

“The pressure on all communities, including co-ops and condos, has increased,” observes attorney Geoffrey Mazel, a partner at Hankin & Mazel, who also testified. “Everyone’s getting hit. The pie has gotten so much larger, so any inequities just become even more and more exaggerated.” 

Attorney Stuart Saft, a partner at Holland & Knight and chairman of CNYC, doubts that a city commission can have much impact. “I don’t see anything coming out of this because any change is going to require legislation from the state,” Saft says. “And if the state isn’t getting a buy-in, then we’re not going to see anything happening.” 

The commission is expected to make its recommendations in February.

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