Marianne Schaefer in Bricks & Bucks on May 13, 2020
The sprawling Glen Oaks Village co-op in northeast Queens, with almost 3,000 units, did not pay its quarterly property taxes that fell due on April 15 – as a matter of principle. “We need to ease the burden for co-ops,” says Bob Friedrich, president and chief financial officer at Glen Oaks.
Friedrich is also president of the Presidents Co-op and Condo Council, which represents about 100 co-ops and condos, mostly in Queens but also in Brooklyn and Manhattan. The Presidents Council sent a letter to all members, advising them to unilaterally not pay their property taxes at this point. “So many people have been laid off or furloughed and are not able to pay their maintenance,” Friedrich says. “Commercial tenants in co-ops and condos often cannot pay their rent. That puts co-ops and condos in a difficult financial situation. This is especially true for all the affordable and middle-income housing.” The Presidents Council informed the Finance Commissioner Jacques Jiha, Mayor Bill De Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo of its members’ plight, but their plea was simply ignored.
Friedrich believes people are being treated unequally during the current pandemic. “Renters have gotten more rights when they’re unable to pay rent, and taxpayers can file their taxes three months late,” he says. “But when it comes to property taxes, which for most co-ops and condos is their single highest expense, then all we get from the governor is dead silence. It’s not that we’re saying that we don’t want to pay any taxes. When we emerge on the other end of the pandemic, the money will be flowing back in.”
In addition to the silent treatment from elected officials, co-ops and condos have been ruled ineligible for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, and several insurance carriers have said their business income insurance policies will not pay for lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic. A clearer picture of just how much income has been lost – due to unpaid monthly maintenance by residents and unpaid rent by commercial tenants – should emerge at the end of the month.
“The interest and penalty on the property tax would be paid by the very same people who are laid off or furloughed, and that’s an outrage,” Friedrich says.
There has been some tax relief, and more might be on the way. Gov. Cuomo issued an executive order that relaxes specific penalties and interest which can accrue on taxes owed to Westchester and Nassau Counties. In response to the pandemic, Assembly member Alicia Hyndman, a Queens Democrat, has introduced a bill that would authorize localities to extend the application renewal and filing deadline from March 15 to June 15 for certain real property tax abatement programs. And Assembly member Steve Stern, a Democrat from the Long Island town of Dix Hills, has introduced a bill that would allow municipalities to authorize deferred scheduled or installment payments for property tax collection during a declared state of emergency. During deferment of payment, no additional interest or penalties would accrue, and once a state disaster emergency is lifted, taxes would be collected in installments.
But Paul Korngold, a tax lawyer at Tuchman, Korngold, Weiss, Liebman & Lindemann, believes these bills face dim prospects. “The city desperately needs the money right now,” Korngold says. “The New York City budget already had to cut back. I don’t think that any of these bills will get through or that there will be any tax relief for co-ops and condos.”
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