2004 Legislative Report
from the Assembly Committee on
Real Property

Message from the Chair

As the Chairman of the Real Property Taxation Committee, I have worked throughout this session in Albany to find legislative remedies to issues of concern that fall under the Committee’s purview. I am very proud of the many initiatives we have forged, and the inroads made to achieve a real property taxation system which is not only equitable, but efficient, and which also gives the greatest advantages to the greatest number of New Yorkers.

Throughout this report, you will read of some of the legislation which the Committee has shepherded. While there is still much work to do, with the leadership of Speaker Sheldon Silver and the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Assemblyman Herman Farrell,
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver with Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin
we were able to champion such issues as removing certain tax incentives for over-development, improving tax assessment practices, and although not yet finalized, we took steps to secure a tax rebate for property owners in New York City. The Committee also helped enact legislation which will promote economic development and revitalize the tourism industry.

As always, I welcome your input and opinion on these and other important issues. I urge you to contact my District Office at 718-762-6575, 163-13 Depot Road, Flushing, NY 11358, or email at: . I look forward to continue working on behalf of all New Yorkers, and with your support, I will lead the fight to successfully meet the challenges before us. Through the Real Property Taxation Committee, we will endeavor to make our City and our State a source of great pride and accomplishment.

Brian M. McLaughlin
Chairman, Real Property Taxation Committee

Sheldon Silver, Speaker • Brian McLaughlin, Chair • Summer 2004

Tax Exemptions for Property Owners, Seniors, Veterans and the Disabled
Apply Now!

STAR (New York State School Tax Relief Program) is a tax relief program that lowers property taxes for certain property owners, without age or income requirements, who use their own homes as a primary residence. This includes owners of houses, cooperatives, condominiums and commercial property in which there is an owner-occupied apartment. The State sets the amount of the benefits every year, based on the value of property in the school district and the school tax rate.

“Enhanced STAR” is available to property owners who will be 65 by the end of the year. This program provides for even greater STAR benefits.

There are other real property tax exemptions available to eligible veterans, senior citizens and disabled individuals. For example, veterans, their spouses, their surviving spouses who never remarried, and “Gold Star Parents” may be entitled to property tax benefits under a special Veterans STAR program. The disabled and seniors who are property owners with a limited income may be eligible for additional real property tax exemptions as well.

To receive an exemption application for eligible individuals outside New York City, contact your local assessor; within New York City, contact the New York City Department of Finance, Exemption Program, PO Box 3120, Church Street Station, NY, NY 10007-3120, or call the office of Assemblyman McLaughlin, Chairman of the Real Property Taxation Committee at: 718-762-6575

Assessor Disclosure Bill Becomes Law

This bill, signed into law by the Governor, requires the reporting of the financial interests of an assessor of real property. In an effort to reveal any possible conflict of interest, the law’s focus is to streamline the reporting process, thereby making it less burdensome and nebulous. Assessors earning less than $20,000 annually in the aggregate would be exempt from reporting. Reporting includes disclosure of: owning real property in the assessing unit or contiguous municipality; any significant corporate interests; description of self-employment; professional licenses held; businesses of clients; types of gifts; and persons or firms that owe money or to which money is owed. Such information of the assessor’s immediate family is required as well—unless refused, and that refusal must be stated. The bill provides for the form of the report, and clarifies the exact due date of reporting (by May 15th of each year), in addition to where it must filed.

For Co-Op Owners

A bill (A9418B) sponsored by Assemblyman Brodsky, passed by the Assembly and Senate and having statewide application, would require cooperative apartment corporations to inform tenant-stockholders about STAR benefits. Residents of co-ops are often confused about how the STAR exemption is calculated. This bill would require co-op corporations to include information on the full amount of STAR benefit available, and limits the ways in which the corporation can utilize the benefits, thereby opening the options for the stockholder. The bill requires the corporation to return the benefit to the tenant-stockholder over a period of one, six or 12-months. Although this bill has yet to be signed into law by the Governor, when it does, it would be a great help to co-op owners by informing, defining and standardizing the benefit process, eligibility and menu of options.

Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin pictured viewing military memorabilia while visiting the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #4787. McLaughlin informed the veterans of real property tax exemption benefits. He told them: “Because we have had brave men and women like you protecting our way of life far from home, we are safe at home. A grateful nation should show its appreciation in many ways. These tax exemptions are just one of them.”

Protecting the Character Of Our Neighborhoods

Homeowners and civic leaders throughout the State — particularly in New York’s cities — have raised a concern about the current boom in the construction of “McMansions,” a term commonly used for the often garish super-structures that damage the overall appearance of a neighborhood and negatively impact the value of other homes on a block.

“As I travel throughout my Assembly District, I am often stunned by a house that looks blatantly out of character with the rest of the block…worse still is that this ‘mansion’ often replaced a house that I remembered and admired for the charm it lent to the rest of the street,” said Committee Chairman Brian McLaughlin, who hails from Queens. “Clearly, such out-of-sync houses distract from and destroy the aesthetic harmony of a community.”

Despite the opposition and escalating construction costs, “mansion” building is on the rise. Ironically, a government exemption tax law, 421-b, intended to give incentives for improvements to residential areas, unwittingly served to subsidize, at taxpayers costs, these unwanted “improvements” which many neighbors feel reduce the vitality and quality of their community. As the Chairman of the Real Property Taxation Committee, Assemblyman McLaughlin was asked by the New York City Department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD) to help find a way to rid communities of these blights in ornate settings. Working with State Senator Frank Padavan, the Committee took action.

The Committee succeeded in passing legislation that would eliminate the 421-b tax exemption where an owner completely demolishes and removes an existing private dwelling in order to build a new home, since many of these homes tend to be the kind that are out of character in the neighborhood. This exemption program has been essential in spurring the construction of small homes throughout New York City, but in some instances has resulted in unnecessary overdevelopment of lots. This new legislation would eliminate the misuse of the 421-b exemption by developers only interested in profits, and by owners who give little value to community spirit.

In addition, this legislation would allow the current formula, which includes 2 years of 100% exemption of added value during construction and 2 years of 100% after the completion of construction, to encourage the building of homes on approximately 500 properties that were foreclosed in the federal 203(k) mortgage scandal. These properties were left in deteriorated condition, and the Committee has worked with HUD (Housing and Urban Development) to agree to contribute $130 million in federal money toward the cost of their rehabilitation.

While it can be said that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder,” the most troubling aspect of such “mansions” is that some homeowners have found a way to enlarge and enhance their own property—sometimes with the intention of selling or renting, and not for their own use—which others in their community find distasteful as well as costly to them as taxpayers and neighbors. It is Assemblyman McLaughlin’s hope that the passage of this bill will go a long way toward protecting and preserving the quality of life New Yorkers desire and deserve.

Assemblyman McLaughlin and staff met with board members of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association, Marjorie and Nick Ferrigno, to hear their complaints on how the proliferation of “McMansions” is destroying the quality of life in their residential community, prompting the Assemblyman to push for legislation to alleviate the problem.

SCRIE Made Easy

The SCRIE Program (Senior Citizens Rent Increase Exemption Program) is designed to protect eligible seniors of limited income, who live in rent controlled or rent stabilized apartments, or certain residential hotels. It gives landlords dollar-for-dollar tax credit for their apartments, which enables the growing number of older New Yorkers to remain in their homes. This program provides mutually beneficial incentives for keeping long-time residents in their apartments and in New York City. The City’s tax base benefits as well.

To apply, contact The New York City Department of Aging (DFTA) 2 Lafayette Street, 6th Floor, NY, NY 10007 or call the office of Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin, Chairman of the Real Property Committee at: 718-762-6575.

Bill to Recover Lost Revenue

The New York State Assembly has passed legislation (A-6190-B) that would enable New York City’s Department of Finance to recover lost tax dollars that were not billed as a result of deficiencies in the tax assessment process.

As Brian McLaughlin, Chairman of the Real Property Taxation Committee and co-sponsor of the legislation noted: “This bill represents a commitment to protect the taxpayer from any previous improprieties on the part of a tax assessor—which we have identified and corrected—and which may have caused an assessment to be lower than it should have been if properly determined. Loss to the tax coffers because of the criminal activity of a few unscrupulous assessors must not be tolerated.”

This bill allows for a full judicial determination of lost revenue, up to six tax years, to which erroneous assessment applied.

Co-Op/Condo Rebate Bill

The real property tax law, long recognized as treating owners of co-op and condominium units in an inequitable fashion in comparison to owners of one-, two-, and three-family homes, has been adjusted.

Since 1996 through 2003, New York City co-op and condo owners had received a partial tax abatement to correct the inequity. Now, hundreds of thousands of additional City residents will benefit from this much needed measure at achieving fairness for co-op and condo owners, because the partial abatement is extended for the next four years.

“I am delighted that we were finally able to bring an evenhanded approach to New York City’s tax system as it pertains to real property. Certainly, owners of co-ops and condos have an equal right to equal treatment. This law takes effect immediately, and should provide much justified relief to these property owners,” said Assemblyman McLaughlin.

Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin, Chairman of the Real Property Taxation Committee with Assemblyman Paul Tokasz, Majority Leader of the Assembly

Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin
Chairman, NYS Assembly Committee on Real Property Taxation
Room 704 LOB • Albany, New York 12248 • 518.455.5172
163-13 Depot Road • Flushing, New York 11358 • 718.762.6575

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