A legislative snafu has some co-op and condo owners up in arms, decrying the prospect of increased property taxes if the state legislature does not reconvene before January. Others are seeking to cool tempers, taking Gov. Cuomo at his word when his office promised a property tax abatement will be at the top of the agenda when lawmakers return to Albany in January. Blame Hurricane Sandy.
At the heart of the kerfuffle is a property tax abatement for co-ops and condos, which expired on June 30. The lost tax break could cost some $1,200 per unit, a figure many say would break the backs of owners already on a tight budget.
“For the sake of co-op and condo owners around the city, this integral and important tax abatement needs to be renewed as soon as possible,” said state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who has made repeated calls for a special session in December to allow a vote approving the abatement’s extension.
But many legislators, including Avella, do not have high hopes the legislation will be taken up before January. The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy diverted attention away during the year’s final months, which otherwise could feasibly have hosted a special session to pass any unfinished but pressing business.
The legislation was originally drafted and had enough votes to pass back in June, according to Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside), who co-authored the measure. It was subsequently thrown into an omnibus bill that did not reach the floor in time for the state house’s recess. In the time since, elections and Mother Nature have drawn lawmakers’ attention elsewhere.
But Braunstein and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) have been in contact with the governor’s and mayor’s offices as late as Friday. Cuomo gave assurances he would push for the bill’s speedy passage in January according to Stavisky, and the city continues to send out property tax bills that assume the abatement’s retention and retroactive enactment to July 1 and onward.
The practice is somewhat common but certainly not ideal, she said.
“This is just a very common procedure,” Stavisky said. “Is it a good idea? No, of course not. We’re dealing with reality and the reality says that we have an agreement.”
Assumptions are a far cry from reality, Avella asserted.
“The current uncertainty regarding the status of this tax abatement is causing undeserved confusion for co-op and condo owners,” he said. “Promises are all well and good but it’s not done until it’s done.”
The abatement is meant to level a perceived injustice, as co-ops and condos are taxed at a higher rate than 1- to 3-family homes. Its continuation is portrayed as a small dose of justice.
But the details of Braunstein’s bill also concern Avella. The legislation calls for a gradually increasing rate on co-ops and condos that are not owner-occupied. That slight adjustment in the rate was set to begin after June 30, but is not reflected in the bills sent out by the city.
The retroactive enactment of the bill could lead to a paperwork headache at the city level, Avella said.
“This creates a very interesting paperwork situation for the city with the tax bills that are already going on,” he said. “This is unusual. This is clearly unusual.”
Avella is part of a growing and agitated chorus of concerned officials, including Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland), who leads the council’s Condo Caucus.
“For most 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 families who make their homes therein,” Weprin said in a statement.
Warren Schreiber and Bob Friedrich, co-presidents of the Presidents Co-op/Condo Council, joined Avella in a press conference at Glen Oaks Village on Tuesday. Their goal isn’t to force the issue at hand, but to keep the spotlight on the legislation until it is passed.
Braunstein and Stavisky have kept a lower profile as the legislative grind continues, confident the legislation will eventually come through and leave property owners unscathed.
Avella cautiously agreed.