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Lack of “Political Will” Driving Lawsuit on Property Tax Reform

New York City

Property tax reform, Tax Equity Now New York, market values, co-op and condos.

Tax Equity Now New York argues that property tax reform must come from the courts.

Feb. 25, 2020

When he campaigned for mayor in 2013, Bill de Blasio, like many who came before him, promised to reform the city’s lopsided, unfair and unloved system of levying property taxes. De Blasio repeated the promise during his 2017 campaign for re-election. In late 2018, a commission appointed by de Blasio recommended a series of changes intended to make taxes more equitable, but few people believe change will come during de Blasio’s tenure, which ends in January 2022

That explains why a coalition called Tax Equity Now New York (TENNY) filed a lawsuit in 2017. Since politicians have failed to deliver reform for decades, the coalition contends, the courts are the only place where New Yorkers can hope to get long-overdue tax reform. 

“The reason for the litigation is that the political will to do this does not exist,” TENNY spokesman John Gallagher tells the New York Times

“For so many years, people had been waiting for the political process to fix it,” adds Martha Stark, TENNY’s policy director, who served as city finance commissioner under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “But we needed the courts to step in.” 

The Advisory Commission on Property Tax Reform has recommended, among many other things, that the city assess most homes, including co-ops and condos, at full market value and remove the cap on how much the value of a property can increase each year. That cap has led rapidly appreciating properties to become under-taxed, at the expense of more modest properties that haven’t appreciated as sharply.

All well and good, but TENNY isn’t waiting. The coalition is made up of some unlikely bedfellows, including deep-pocketed landlords, urban planners, budget hawks and even the N.A.A.C.P., which has complained for years of racial inequities in the property tax system. Stark, not one to mince words, has called the current tax system “discriminatory, regressive and unlawful.”

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