Janet Babin, Economic Development Reporter, WNYC News
Janet Babin is a reporter at WNYC covering economic development.
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.