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The Department of Finance is Making House Calls

NEW YORK CITY’S bureaucracy is not known for being user-friendly. So it’s news when the Department of Finance (DOF) starts making house calls on co-ops in an effort to make sure that eligible shareholders are getting all of their available tax exemptions and abatements.Several emissaries from the DOF recently set up shop inside the 727-unit Bay Terrace co-op in northeast Queens with their own computers, Wi-Fi, and printers. During a two-hour session, the staffers reviewed the accounts of about 60 shareholders.“People were able to review their exemptions and find out what they’re entitled to,” says Warren Schreiber, board presi-dent of Bay Terrace, Section I. “Right then and there, they could put in their application for those additional exemptions.” Schreiber stresses that the session addressed only exemptions and abatements that are directly available to individual share-holders, such as senior citizens, clergy, veterans, and people with disabilities — and not the corporation’s tax abatement. By all accounts, the session at Bay Terrace was well received by share-holders because it was much easier than navigating the DOF system on the internet. “Usually it is extremely difficult deal-ing with the Department of Finance,” says attorney Geoffrey Mazel, a partner at Hankin & Mazel, who represents the Bay Terrace co-ops. “This is brilliant.”The DOF house call originated when a Bay Terrace share-holder contacted the office of state Senator John Liu, whose district covers northeast Queens. “We’re going to do our best to make our way through all the co-ops in the district,” says Heather Stewart, communications director for Senator Liu. “Our plan is to visit all who are interested in the program. Anybody in our constituency who would like this service is cer-tainly welcome to contact us.”If the Bay Terrace experience is a barometer, co-ops across the city might soon warm up to house calls from the DOF.

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