July 17, 2018 By Christian Murray
Elected officials and Citylights residents held a rally on the steps of City Hall today where they called on the Mayor to help them lower their property tax bills.
The residents of the 522-unit coop building, located at 4-78 48th Ave., face a 60 percent hike in their monthly maintenance bills over the next five years stemming from a jump in their property taxes.
The building’s 20-year tax abatement provided by the state is being phased out and the building’s assessed value has almost doubled in two years.
“My maintenance is going from $2,600 [per month] this year to $3,900 [per month] in 2022,” said Shelley Cohen, the treasurer of the building, last week.
Today, the attendees—accompanied by State Sen. Mike Gianaris and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer—held signs that read “Save Citylights” and “You promised affordable housing.” They also held up a giant tax bill that read “return to sender.”
While the units now fetch between $500,000 and $1 million, many residents argue that they don’t have the cash flow to cover the big jump in maintenance and would be forced to sell. A significant number of residents say that they moved into Citylights in 1997 and that the state assured them that their units would remain affordable. None of the units, however, are income restricted.
In 1997 when the co-op was launched the state provided a 20-year tax abatement—similar to the 421 a tax-exemption program. The coop didn’t have to start paying property taxes until this month.
The tax is now being phased in at 20 percent per year until 100 percent of the assessed taxes are payable starting July 1, 2023. This year the building is subject to $800,000 in taxes, which will go up to $5.8 million over five years.
The total maintenance costs of the building will go from $10 million this year to $16 million in 2023 with the hike.
The tax is based on the building’s assessed value, which is determined by the city. The assessed value has gone from $51.7 million in 2016 to $101.6 million in 2018. The co-op claims that the valuation is inflated and is appealing it with the Department of Finance. The coop board says it is being assessed as if it were a high-end rental building located nearby.
The residents are also looking for the state to change the terms of the tax abatement–to increase it from 20 years to, say, 35 years.
The state has said that it is willing to negotiate the terms of the abatement but needs the city to approve such discussions. The city has yet to do so.
“Both the City and the State need to step up and do the right thing for the residents of Citylights,” Van Bramer said today. “It is within the Mayor’s ability and authority to make changes to the ways in which property taxes have been assessed at Citylights. It’s time to step up and work to help the residents of Citylights stay in their homes.”
The City issued the same statement on the issue today that it did a week ago.
“We are aware of the issues surrounding the Citylights building and will continue to work with the property owners and board to the extent we legally can. The New York City Tax Commission is reviewing Citylights’ appeal for the property’s 2018-19 tax assessment. If the Tax Commission determines that the reductions are warranted, DOF will make the adjustments.”