De Blasio, Cuomo issue dueling tax lien delays

The city's annual tax lien sale has been delayed until at least Oct. 3 under an executive order issued by Gov. Cuomo last Friday afternoon. There is the possibility that the date could be pushed back later if the governor deems it necessary.

New York City’s planned tax lien sale was delayed for three weeks by Mayor de Blasio on Friday — minutes before Gov. Cuomo has put it off at least somewhat longer via executive order.

The city every year offers delinquent tax accounts for companies to bid on. They then are in line to collect the debts.

The sale originally planned for this past May was put off until Sept. 4 in consideration of the havoc that the COVID-19 outbreak wreaked on people’s lives and the economy.

De Blasio, in a joint press release with city Department of Finance Commissioner Jacques Jiha on Friday, delayed the sale three weeks to Sept. 25, saying the city will continue its outreach efforts to affected homeowners.

“COVID-19 has hit the pocketbooks of New Yorkers hard, and we’re doing whatever we can to give New Yorkers some relief,” de Blasio said. “Postponing the lien sale will allow New Yorkers more time to work with the City on their best path forward.”

Minutes later Cuomo announced his executive order. MSN News website on Friday evening quoted an unnamed official in the Cuomo administration as saying the order puts the sale off for at least 30 days. That places the sale on hold until at least Oct. 30, though it can be extended longer as has happened with other Cuomo measures since the start of the pandemic.

Cuomo and state Attorney General Letitia James said the stay is intended to protect homeowners as the COVID-19 public health crisis continues.

“As the economic impacts of COVID-19 rage on, the tax lien sale puts an unnecessary financial burden on New York’s homeowners, and especially communities of color,” James said. “It is the responsibility of government to relieve the financial hardships of the people wherever possible, not exacerbate them.”

“COVID-19 caused enormous disruption in the daily lives of New Yorkers, including their ability to keep a roof over their head,” Cuomo said. “The tax and water lien sale was delayed in May in recognition of this hardship, and given the current economic climate it makes sense to delay it again so that homeowners aren’t facing further uncertainty. This measure is part and parcel with our ongoing efforts to help New Yorkers weather the ongoing public health emergency.”

In an emailed statement, Acting Borough President Sharon Lee, state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows), and Councilmembers Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica) and Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) thanked Cuomo and James for their intercession on behalf of Queens residents.

Lee had written to de Blasio last week reiterating her support for both a resolution sponsored by Adams and Comrie’s bill in the Senate — S.8921 — which would postpone the sale until one year after the COVID-19 State of emergency is lifted.

“It was simply inhumane and unjust to proceed with the 2020 New York City tax lien sale today,” Lee said in her own statement on Friday. “Thanks to intervention by Attorney General James as well as Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order today, thousands of families and homeowners — many of whom are here in Queens — are granted precious reprieve and will be able to breathe a little easier during this ongoing state of emergency. Without it, the City’s untimely lien sale would have displaced families, destabilized communities and disrupted generational wealth build.”

According to de Blasio and Jiha, more than 80 percent of owners pay the full amount owed, enter into payment plans, or obtain an exemption that removes them from the at-risk pool. The DOF also advertises at risk properties and conducts extensive outreach to property owners at risk of having their liens sold, often partnering with community groups and elected officials to reach as many property owners as possible.

Property owners who are facing hardships making their property tax payments can take advantage of several existing DOF programs. These include exemption programs to lower the amount of taxes owed, standard payment plans, or a new Property Tax and Interest Deferral program, for those who qualify.

The DOF also provides a monthly property tax billing service to facilitate budgeting for property owners billed on a quarterly or semi-annual basis. More information on those programs can be found on the agency’s website at nyc.gov/assets/finance/downloads/pdf/20pdf/hardship-programs-press-release.pdf.

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