NY Property Taxes Violate Civil Rights Law, Says Lawsuit

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Brownstones in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn on Hancock Street. Brownstones in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn on Hancock Street. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Property taxes can be infuriating. But a class action lawsuit filed in the state Supreme Court on Wednesday alleges that city and state property taxes violate the federal Civil Rights Act of 1968.

According to the complaint, black and Latino residents are more likely to live in rental buildings with more than 11 units, and those renters shoulder a higher tax burden than residents who own their homes.

"Mayor de Blasio came into office on a slogan, that we have a tale of two cities in New York. so we hope and expect that when they [city officials] take a hard look at this case, they'll agree with us," said Randolph McLaughlin, co-counsel to the suit, along with Lucas Ferrara of Newman Ferrara LLP.

In 2013, city property tax reports show that rental unit residents paid roughly twice as much in property taxes as other properties, such as multiple family homes.  

Several reports, including a study from the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University, found that the city's co-ops and condos are undervalued for tax purposes. And the consequence of that undervaluation, according to the lawsuit, is that the city's renters have to pay a disproportionately high amount in real estate tax.

Real estate taxes are included in rents—the city estimates that roughly a third of a tenant's rent is comprised of property taxes.

In a statement, a spokesperson with the New York City Law Department said, "we will review the lawsuit once we are served."

Attorney McLaughlin said that the City and New York State had already been served.




According to the complaint - filed in State Supreme Court - Black and Latino residents are more likely to live in rental buildings, and those renters shoulder a higher tax burden than residents who own their homes. 



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Comments [1]

Will from Sugar Hill

Bill deBlasio paid just $2,590.69 in property taxes for the entire year of 2013 for a three-story, multi-bedroom house, with a front and rear yard and 25 feet of street-frontage (and sidewalk) in one of the most desirable neighborhoods (and school districts) in NYC, while a common renter paying a market-rent of $2,500 per month for a 500 sq. ft. 1-BR (even in a crummy school district) sharing 100 feet of frontage with hundreds of co-tenants will ultimately contribute $10,000 toward the public fisc through property taxes paid by his or her landlord. This is NOT unfair because it affects Blacks and Latinos disproportionately; it is unfair because it is unfair. Period. It's too bad someone has to play the race card on this issue to get anyone to notice this matter when the disparity slone should be cause for outrage on its own (but, hey, no pol ever got run out of office in NYC for raising taxes paid by landlords [and they don't care to recognize the deleterious affect those taxes have on the housing market]). It's a mess and should end now! If Bill deBlasio wants to bring fairness to this City of two tales, he can start by looking in the mirror.

Feb. 26 2014 07:44 PM

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