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Lawmakers vow to protect co-op tax relief

Community leaders, including state Sen. Tony Avella (third from l.) and state Assemblyman David Weprin (fourth from l..), rally to preserve tax abatements for city co-op and condo owners. Photo by Phil Corso
TimesLedger Newspapers

Their tax abatement program may have expired, but city officials gathered in Bay Terrace last week to assure area co-op and condo owners that they will not be hit with any surprises.

The state Legislature failed to extend the current J-51 program, which officially ended June 30, but an agreement should protect homeowners until lawmakers reconvene later this year to pass a new plan.

“Co-op owners should be encouraged that relief is right around the corner and reports that they will see a spike in their maintenance costs are false,” said state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside). “Moving forward, we will continue to advance measures that ease the cost burden on middle-class co-op owners in northeast Queens.”

The J-51 program provides co-op and condo owners with millions of dollars in tax abatements to help maintain and upgrade their properties.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said the Assembly, state Senate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed upon what he called landmark legislation, which aims to cut taxes for most co-op and condo owners who pay a disproportionate share of the city’s property tax burden. Silver said the agreement will be signed into law later this year.

“In the short term, the city has issued tax bills for the current fiscal year based on the current tax abatement rates,” Silver said. “When the legislation is signed into law as promised by the governor, we anticipate that the new lower rates will be effective retroactive to July 1.”

The plan, which Braunstein proposed, includes a jump in tax abatement from 17.5 percent to 25 percent this year and more than 28 percent in three years, the assemblyman said, which would reduce overall maintenance costs for homeowners.

Community leaders joined with Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) last week in Bay Terrace to still rally for the immediate renewal of the expired tax abatement.

“Co-op and condo owners should have the same property tax breaks as one-, two- and three-family homeowners,” Avella said. “Instead, co-op and condo owners pay much more in property taxes and the loss of this abatement only goes to further this inequity.”

Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, said residents would pay up to $1,200 more a year in maintenance costs without the decades-old tax abatement.

Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village, described the program as a partnership with the city that helps keep homeowners financially afloat.

“Co-ops and condos are really the last bastion of affordable housing in the city of New York,” Friedrich said. “The program is essential. I am optimistic, but actions speak louder than words.”

The city Finance Department said taxes were expected to jump 7.5 percent for co-op owners and 9.6 percent for condo owners in the city despite single-family homes seeing a smaller increase of 2.8 percent. Two city comptroller audits found in April that Finance had drastically increased co-op and condo property values without warning, while homeowners saw the assessed values of their properties raised by as much as 147 percent last year.

Friedrich said he hoped legislators would implement a proposed 8/30 valuation cap, which would limit annual property tax increases to 8 percent or 30 percent over five years. He said unless a cap is proposed, tax increases will continue to pile on excess costs for co-op and condo owners.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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