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Boro pols ask Cuomo to curb co-op tax hikes

Warren Schreiber, co-president of the Presidents Co-op/Condo Council and president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance; Bob Friedrich, co-president of the Presidents Co-op/Condo Council and President of Glen Oaks Village; state Sen. Tony Avella; Assemblyman Michael DenDekker attend the meeting. Photo courtesy Tony Avella
TimesLedger Newspapers

With worries that the state Legislature may not reconvene for a special session before year’s end, northeast Queens lawmakers reached out to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on behalf of co-op and condo owners to prevent what they are calling a potentially devastating increase in real property taxes.

City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) called on Cuomo last week to organize a special session in the state Legislature to stop any serious tax increases for co-op and condo owners in areas including Bay Terrace and Glen Oaks Village.

“If the Legislature does not meet before the year is out, co-ops and condos may face skyrocketing tax bills in January 2013,” Weprin warned. “I am determined to avoid such a scenario.”

Earlier this year, the state Legislature failed to extend the J-51 program, which provided co-op and condo owners with millions of dollars in tax abatements to help maintain and upgrade properties. The program officially ended June 30, but lawmakers said agreements were in place to pass a new plan.

But because of widespread damage throughout the state caused by Hurricane Sandy, the likelihood of a special session before 2013 was not so bright, a source close to Cuomo told the New York Post earlier this month.

In a letter to both the governor and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) urged lawmakers to take whatever steps necessary to ensure that benefits of a tax abatement serving co-op and condominium owners throughout the city remain intact.

“If a ‘special’ legislative session is not possible, then I would ask that you issue respective executive orders to retain the property tax abatement until legislation is passed early next session to resolve this issue,” Avella said.

Earlier this year, state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) said Bloomberg’s office committed to continuing the tax abatement program until the Legislature reconvened to provide relief to middle-class co-op owners. According to the plan, which Braunstein proposed, co-op owners would see abatements rise from 17.5 percent to 25 percent this year and more than 28 percent in three years. Avella said the program’s expiration would result in an increase of about $1,200 or more per unit if not retroactively renewed, leading to “extreme financial hardships” for thousands of co-op and condo owners throughout the city.

Several northeast Queens co-op and condo owners came out in favor of Braunstein’s proposal in a Bay Terrace press conference earlier this year.

“Under the new and improved property tax abatement program co-ops and condos can continue to provide middle-class families with much-needed affordable housing along with the pride of ownership,” said Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance and copresident of the Presidents Co-op and Condo Council.

Weprin said he sponsored the original version of the tax abatement bill as a member of the Assembly in 1996, which the Legislature continually renewed until this year.

“For most Queens co-ops and condos, the tax abatement is vital, and its elimination would surely wreak havoc on the budgets of co-ops, condos and the middle-class families who make their homes therein,” Weprin said.

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

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