Cooperatives and condominiums with non-union staffs just got a very nice present. The state legislature passed a bill last summer that would have required boards to pay non-union employees a “prevailing wage" – or forfeit the cherished co-op and condo tax abatement, which reduces property taxes from 17.5 percent to 28 percent, depending on the average assessed value of the units in the building. Opponents to the bill railed that it would have added a crippling burden to small co-ops and condos on tight budgets.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo made those fears vanish, simply by doing nothing. The bill landed on his desk on Jan. 7, and with a stroke of his pen he could have made it state law. But Cuomo did not sign the legislation, and after 30 days it died a quiet death, a victim of what’s known as a “pocket veto.”
“The pocket veto of this legislation is a huge victory for many co-op and condo shareholders and unit-owners who would have lost their benefits under the abatement once their boards were unable to certify that their service employees are paid a prevailing wage,” attorneys Leni Morrison Cummins and Jennifer Miller of Cozen O’Connor write in the law firm’s newsletter. “It is also a win for co-op and condo boards that do not have the financial wherewithal to pay prevailing wages.”
Prevailing wages are set by the New York City Comptroller, based on the pay and benefit packages negotiated by the Service Employees International Union, Local 32BJ. It’s now more than $70,000 a year.
The Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums mounted an aggressive letter-writing campaign against the legislation. Mary Ann Rothman, the council’s executive director, said the bill would have been “disastrous” if enacted. The letter-writing campaign failed to sway the state legislature, but it appears to have helped dissuade the governor from picking up his pen and signing the bill into law.
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