New York State Assembly, Albany, New York 12248

2002 Legislative Report
from the Assembly Committee on

Real Property

Message from the Chair

photo Dear Fellow New Yorkers:

As the newly appointed Chair of the Real Property Taxation Committee, I am writing to update you on issues and legislation that the committee has been concentrating on during the 2002 session.

The Committee has had a very busy year. Soon after I became Chair, 18 former and current New York City tax assessors were indicted on bribery and fraud charges. The indictments focused attention to some serious administrative flaws in the Real Property Tax Assessor office. I held a hearing to investigate how this criminal activity could have gone on unnoticed, and to gather recommendations on how to ensure that this does not occur again. I have also introduced four bills to help solve some of the problems that came to light.

Under the leadership of Speaker Sheldon Silver and Ways and Means Chair, Assemblymember Herman D. Farrell, the Committee won a major victory in this year’s budget negotiations, when the School Tax Relief (STAR) Program was extended to Mitchell-Lama residents. When STAR was first introduced in 1998, Mitchell-Lama owners were not included in the program. For the last few years, the Assembly has passed a bill that incorporates Mitchell-Lama in STAR, and as the new Chair of the Real Property Taxation Committee, I fought hard to ensure that Mitchell-Lama residents would not have to wait any longer.

These important issues have made it an exciting and interesting session, and I look forward to working on other important matters as the year continues. As always, I encourage you to contact either my District Office at 212-873-6368 or my Albany office at 518-455-5802 with any questions or concerns you may have. We are available to help you Monday through Friday from 10AM to 5PM. Also feel free to email me at

Scott Stringer
Chair, Assembly Committee on Real Property Taxation

Sheldon Silver, Speaker square Scott Stringer, Chair square Summer 2002

Committee Holds Hearing On Assessor Practices and Assessment Administration In New York City

image In February, 2002, federal prosecutors uncovered a conspiracy in the New York City Finance Department involving some 18 current and former city assessors who accepted millions of dollars in bribes to improperly reduce the assessments on at least 500 properties and which may have lasted over 35 years. Such criminal conduct may have cost New York City taxpayers from $200 million to as much as one billion dollars in lost revenue, but more significantly, may have eroded property owners’ confidence in the system of real property assessment and taxation.

Responding to this outrage, the Real Property Taxation Committee held a hearing to inquire immediately into the facts surrounding the system of assessment administration and assessor practices in New York City. A public hearing was conducted by the Committee on March 21, 2002, at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, at which eleven witnesses testified.

The witnesses included Honorable Martha E. Stark, Commissioner, NYC Department of Finance; Honorable David Weprin, Chairman, NYC Council Finance Committee; Steven Spinola, President, Real Estate Board of New York; James DeCuzzi, President, Tax Appeals Commission; and assessors, attorneys, other representatives of property owners, and real estate experts.

The scope of the hearing was the need for assessor accountability and supervision, improvement of assessor training and compensation, upgrading of technology used to compute assessments and the provision of quality control. Moreover, the hearing brought up the issue that the New York City assessment system needs to have the spotlight shined on its flaws and should be simplified so the average citizen understands how it works.

The hearing prompted the Committee to introduce and recommend the following legislation to start to contend with the issues the hearing raised: A.10434 (Stringer), A.11404 (Stringer), A.11405 (Stringer), A.11406 (Stringer), A.11407 (Stringer), A.4683A (Brennan). The bill introduced by Assemblymember Brennan has passed both houses of the legislature and is expected to be signed into law. The substance of the legislation includes the following:

  • New York City should have the authority to recover, by civil action, revenues lost as a result of criminal conduct which reduced taxable assessments;
  • An independent City Assessor ought to be established with the responsibility of certifying the accuracy and completeness of the assessment roll;
  • City assessors and assessing personnel should meet minimum qualifications and be certified as having requisite education and training;
  • State reimbursement should be available for training courses;
  • Assessors should be subject to financial disclosure ethics law;
  • Methods of valuation, including capitalization rates and other data used in determining assessments should be made available to property owners;
  • Sales data for real property transactions should be made available to the public; and
  • State reimbursement to New York City for maintaining updated assessment valuations and assessment rolls should be granted in full.

Real Property taxes account for 20 percent — about $9 billion — of New York City’s revenue and is vital to the maintenance of City services. It is therefore crucial, especially now when the City and State are facing severe budget deficits, that the assessment process is complete and exact to ensure that none of this revenue is lost. The Committee’s legislative recommendations will open a dialogue that will enable the City and the State to work together to find solutions to the problems in the tax assessment system.

Victory For Mitchell-Lama Housing:
Star Program Extended To Owners

The School Tax Relief (STAR) Program — the first state funded real estate tax exemption to be offered in New York State — was enacted in 1997. Although this program has been highly successful, Mitchell-Lama homeowners have been denied STAR eligibility for the past four years. Now, after years of protest, approximately 75,000 Mitchell-Lama cooperative owners will be eligible for property tax discounts under STAR.

There are two types of STAR programs — Basic STAR and Enhanced STAR exemptions. The Basic STAR exemption is available to all residential property owners, regardless of age or income, as long as the property is used as the applicant’s primary residence. The Enhanced STAR exemption is available to senior citizens whose combined household income does not exceed $60,000. Seniors with total annual incomes above $60,000 are still eligible for Basic STAR.

To apply for the STAR exemption, Mitchell-Lama homeowners can use one of the following methods:

  • Send a request via the internet at
  • Call the STAR exemption office at (212) 361–8215
  • Write to New York City Department of Finance, STAR Exemption Program, 66 John Street, 13th Floor, New York, NY 10038

Make sure to include your name, mailing address, property address (including apartment number), tax block and lot numbers (these are available from your building management office for co-op and condo owners), and the type of STAR benefit application that you are requesting.

Star Improvement

In addition to the inclusion of Mitchell-Lama owners, the following improvements in the STAR program were also achieved this legislative session.

checkmarkThis year’s budget included a provision that would account for cost-of-living increases based upon the rate of inflation. This automatically raises the income eligibility levels for seniors receiving enhanced STAR benefits. Enhanced STAR saved eligible seniors $597 million last year — the cost-of-living increase will mean an additional $10 million in savings.

checkmarkIt is now easier for seniors to meet their application requirements. Rather than filing their income annually, seniors can now choose to have their income verified automatically by the Department of Taxation and Finance.

checkmarkExtensions have also been provided for homeowners who fail to meet a STAR deadline due to a death or illness in the family, or other extenuating circumstances. After the dreadful events of September 11, 2001, it was clear that a provision needed to be established to protect people from losing the STAR exemption as a result of a tragedy.

checkmarkCertain qualified tenant-stockholders of co-ops are eligible for a STAR exemption. Although the individual applies, the exemption is paid in a "lump" sum directly to the co-op and is then distributed to the tenant stockholders. A new law has been established which requires co-ops to provide a written statement within sixty days to tenant-stockholders detailing how they are crediting the STAR exemption. This will clarify any potential ambiguity associated with the distribution.

Committee Legislation Will Aid Development of Affordable Housing

This session, two bills introduced by Assemblyman Stringer to encourage the development of affordable housing in New York City were passed into law. The first bill amends Section 421-b of the real Property Tax Law to authorize the City of New York to extend the date by which new construction of one and two family dwellings must be commenced and then completed in order to qualify for the exemption under this section. Exemptions for new construction of private dwellings encourages the growth of middle class housing in New York City, especially in the outer boroughs. Over the past three fiscal years, there have been approximately 19,500 dwellings which have qualified for this exemption. This program is important to the replenishment of the housing stock in New York City.

A second law would amend Section 488-a of the Real Property Tax Law to authorize New York City to extend the date by which not-for-profit and for profit owners rehabilitating single room occupancy housing (SRO) are eligible to receive real property tax benefits. SRO housing is an important source of affordable housing for individuals of low income who are often elderly or formerly homeless. The bill would continue to provide an incentive for owners to upgrade major structural systems in such buildings, thereby rendering such residential housing more habitable.

Real Property Tax Abatements Help Booster Fire Department And Ambulance Services

This legislative session, the Real Property Taxation Committee was able to help volunteer fire departments and ambulance services become bigger and better throughout New York State. To encourage enrollment, the committee passed legislation that allows eight localities to offer real property tax abatements to residents who volunteer for the fire department or for ambulance services. After the tragic events of September 11, the people of New York understand now more than ever the crucial work provided by firefighters and the importance of maintaining strong emergency services.

E-Mail The Committee!

Committee Chair Scott Stringer is compiling a list of e-savvy New Yorkers who would like to receive updates via e-mail.

If you are interested, please e-mail Assemblyman Stringer at to have your name added to the Committee’s contact list.

For more information, contact:

Scott Stringer


Assembly Committee
on Real Property Taxation


Room 538 LOB
Albany, New York 12248


230 West 72nd St.
Suite 2F
New York, New York 10023

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