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Weprin, co-ops reject 50% lid on city taxes

After borough co-ops saw their tax assessments rise between 50 percent and 150 percent late last month, City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) said he was able to get the city Department of Finance to limit the cap on property taxes for co-ops at 50 percent.

But Weprin, elected officials and co-op owners said the cap is still outrageously high.

“While I appreciate DOF’s recognition that the initial assessments could not stand, a 50 percent hike is still unreasonable,” said Weprin, chairman of the Council Co-op/Condo Caucus. “An increase of that magnitude will pose a terrible burden for co-op shareholders and condo unit owners.”

Weprin said the agreement with Finance was made after he and Council Finance Chairman Domenic Recchia (D-Brooklyn) met with Finance Commissioner David Frankel.

Glen Oaks Village President Bob Friedrich, who said the co-op’s valuations rose 86 percent, called the 50 percent figure “unacceptable.”

Friedrich said he and other co-op presidents rejected the offer during a meeting last week in Whitestone.

“We actually reject it outright. We think the offer of 50 percent is an acknowledgement of how arbitrary their original flawed numbers were,” he said. “I’ve never seen such bad government. It’s like the commissioner is just pulling numbers out of a hat.”

While property tax increases for homeowners are capped at 6 percent per year or 25 percent over five years, there is no such cap for co-ops and condos.

A 50 percent increase in market value would mean co-ops and condos would pass along that cost to its residents in the form of maintenance increases.

Weprin said he is still waiting on a Freedom of Information Law request he sent to Finance, which asked for copies of documents related to the methodology used and reasons behind the huge spike in assessments.

“Some Queens co-ops have seen their market values surge 50 to 150 percent this year, according to the Department of Finance,” Weprin said. “That pattern definitely suggests a severe flaw in the system.”

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), who like Weprin has a large number of co-ops and condos in her district, said the 50 percent cap would affect 2,405 properties throughout the city.

“As far as I’m concerned, a 50 percent market value assessment hike is still very high,” she said. “What’s to prevent the city raising the assessment 100 percent next year?”

Stavisky said she sent letters to co-op presidents in her district to let them know she did not agree with the 50 percent cap.

“Cutting assessed market values on co-ops from 147 percent to 50 percent is like saying, ‘You don’t have to drink a full cup of arsenic, you only have to drink half a cup.’ Either way you’re still getting poisoned,” she said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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