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 [2]

Notably and inexcusably absent from this piece is any mention of REFORM of how we finance public education. Many NYorkers believe income taxes, not property taxes, are the equitable way to finance education. The Equity in Education Act is supported all over NY, but politics and maintaining the lowest taxes on the richest in history keep our so-called leaders focused on gimmicks maintaining the inequity instead of reforming it.

The Equity in Education Act, championed by Kevin Cahill now by Terry Gipson, was always “killed in committee" - More here: The Act would shift financing education from property taxes to income - the ability to pay. That REAL reform would provide numerous benefits to home-owners and renters. Our homes would not be at risk, ALL our kids would get educational advantages whether they live in a "rich" or "poor" property-tax district, small farmers taxed on what they produce, not what their property would be "worth" developed, open lands and farms would not be forced into development, and at-risk seniors and others would not be forced out of their homes if they can't pay annual property tax fleecing.

Prior to 1972 NY had 14 income-tax brackets from 2% to 15%, then the top 9 brackets and bottom 2 were eliminated giving an average rate of 6.85% whether one made $50,000 or $50 Million - giving the richest about $8 Billion in tax cuts! That revenue loss was arguably the beginning of obscene property tax increases with homeowners making-up the loss. "Raising" taxes on the richest through graduated brackets, is really RESTORING fair taxation. More here:

The “Caps” scam and costly "refund" checks are examples of political cowardice that continue gifting the wealthiest, burdening average people, forcing many out of their homes. There was great momentum supporting the Equity In Education Act but political cowardice and politicians who give to the rich and take from the middle class and poor continued serving the wealthiest and influential corporations via the CAPS scam and "rebate" checks - how much does that “rebate” scam cost?

We need real REFORM, not BS "relief" from regressive property taxes that burden many lives! The Equity in Education Act is the mechanism to accomplish reform, give people "Home Security" and all kids a better education. Whether fixed-income seniors, young families, small farmers, lost job/income, want to change careers, have a costly family illness, inherit property “above your means”, or any reason you can't pay out of control, unfair property taxes, the Equity in Education Act would change the quality of your lives. The only thing we need is REAL leadership and political courage rather than continue numerous advantages to the wealthiest at the expense of the vast majority!

Oct. 17 2014 10:04 AM
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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