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First Public Hearing on Property Tax Reform Proposals

Staten Island

Property tax reform, public hearing, Tax Equity Now New York, lawsuit.
March 3, 2020

Last week, a state Supreme Court judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging the city’s widely reviled system of computing property taxes. Next week, the New York City Commission on Property Tax Reform will hold the first public hearing on its recently released menu of reform proposals. The hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. on March 12 in the Petrides School auditorium, at 715 Ocean Terrace on Staten Island. Future hearings in other boroughs will be announced soon.

The group that filed the lawsuit in 2017, Tax Equity Now New York (TENNY), has announced it plans to appeal the dismissal of the case, Crain’s reports. In her 12-page ruling, Supreme Court Judge Cynthia Kern admitted that the city’s property tax system is riddled with “unfairness” and “illogic” – but the correct place to reform it is the city council and state legislature, not the courts. 

TENNY is an unlikely mix of homeowners, civil rights activists and major landlords, including the Durst Organization, Related, RXR Realty, Silverstein Properties and Two Trees. The group’s suit pointed out discrepancies in how the city assesses properties, which result in homeowners in tony neighborhoods often paying comparatively less than lower-value properties in neighborhoods populated predominantly by minorities. 

Jonathan Lippman, former chief judge of the state’s highest court, who is now representing TENNY, says the plaintiffs will now take their case to the state’s Court of Appeals. “Our view was always that this was ultimately going to be determined by the high court,” Lippman tells Crain’s. “Nothing will happen without us continuing the pressure with the lawsuit. The political system hasn’t handled this issue for 40 years.” 

Meanwhile, the commission assembled by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city council has put forth proposals designed to redress many of the inequities cited by TENNY. Among the commission’s proposals is assessing co-ops and condos at market rates, instead of the current system of assessing them on the value of comparable rental properties. The commission also proposes doing away with annual caps on tax increases, which have kept tax bills artificially low in neighborhoods where property values are rising sharply.

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