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Stavisky authors Senate bill to reclassify co-ops

Community members in northeast Queens are not taking the city’s new property value assessments lying down.

In response to a new city Department of Finance system of valuation that resulted in the values of a number of cooperatives and condominiums rising by as much as 147 percent, state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) introduced a bill last month that would move co-ops and condos out of property class 2 and place them in Class 1 with one- and two family homes.

Class 1 properties are valued by the Finance based on sales of other Class 1 properties. Class 2 properties, which include rentals, are valued based on the incomes and costs reported by rental-property owners. When valuing co-ops and condos, Finance looks for what it calls comparables — rentals of similar location, size, age and use — to determine the market value of rent per square foot and then apply those rates to the co-op or condo.

“It makes sense to classify co-ops and condos the same way we do one- and two-family houses, because a co-op or condo building is essentially just a collection of one-family attached homes,” said Stavisky. “These are primary residences, not income-generating properties, and the owners should be assessed and pay taxes accordingly. Co-ops and condos are more closely aligned in their structure of ownership to private homes than to rental properties. These assessments must be reversed.”

Stavisky’s bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and state Assemblyman Edward Braunstein’s (D-Bayside) companion bill is co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing). If the bills are signed into law, however, they would not take effect until Jan. 1. The new tax assessments based on the valuations will begin to be phased in over a five-year period beginning July 1, with a cap of a 50 percent valuation increase the first year.

At a town-hall meeting with Finance Commissioner David Frankel last month, Glen Oaks Village Co-op President Bob Friedrich was critical of the comparables the department used when valuing his buildings. He was at times confrontational with the commissioner. Last week, he said he has plans to bring a lawsuit against the DOF later this month that will “expose the flawed evaluation method” that led to Glen Oaks being valued 83 percent more than it was last year.

Friedrich claims that last year, as per department guidelines, buildings of similar size, age, location, construction type, building class and condition were used as comparables by Finance. The buildings he claims were used for the new valuations are dissimilar, being either commercial or mixed-use. He cited Giardino’s Restaurant, at 44-37 Douglaston Pkwy., as one of the properties the department used.

When asked to comment on this specific case, Finance Department press secretary Owen Stone said errors in the system had led to a misclassification of the building, and that the commercial properties used as comparables for Glen Oaks had been overridden.

Friedrich called the move “damage control.”

“I guess that’s how the DOF works,” he said. “It points out how subjective´╗┐ their process is. You can easily find the [comparables] you want when you need to increase valuations by x amount.”

A town-hall meeting will be held at PS 811 next Thursday at 7:15 p.m. to discuss the issue. Friedrich said Frankel’s office has not yet responded to an invitation.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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