Assemblyman Braunstein, Senator Stavisky, Co-op and Civic Leaders Announce Important Co-op Legislation

April 13, 2012

Assemblyman Edward C. Braunstein, Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, and local leaders announced that they have introduced A.9483/S.6573, legislation which would protect Co-ops from incurring excessive legal fees when they successfully challenge an inaccurate city tax assessment. They have also introduced a second measure, A.9466/S.6572, which would stabilize assessments in the two years following a successful challenge. They were joined by Warren Schreiber, President of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, James Goldstick, Managing Agent for Bay Terrace Section 8 Co-op, Maddy Hacken, President of Bay Terrace Section 8 Co-op, and Janet Feldberg, Co-president of Bay Terrace Section 8 Co-op.

“As a Co-op shareholder, I understand this problem first hand,” Senator Stavisky said. “Inaccurate assessments and the high taxes they bring can cause serious problems for Co-op boards and residents. This legislation would encourage the city to be more careful when preparing projected assessments by having them pay 25% of the legal fees in a successful challenge.”

"We have received complaints from many of our constituents who have repeatedly experienced problems with erroneous and unfair assessments,” added Assemblyman Braunstein. “That is why we have introduced this legislation which would help to alleviate the financial burden placed on co-op owners for mistakes made by the NYC Department of Finance. It is outrageous that Northeast Queens residents not only have been hit with monstrous assessment hikes during this difficult fiscal period, but that they also have to continue to bear the burden of inaccurate decisions made by the Department of Finance."

A tax certiorari is the legal proceeding by which a property owner can challenge a municipal tax assessment. Currently, Co-op boards that engage in a certiorari proceeding are subject to legal fees which may be prohibitive. Furthermore, they run the risk that even if they are successful, the next assessment will also be subject to a challenge. Under the first proposal, a Co-op would pay only 75% of their legal fees in a successful certiorari suit. In the second bill, they would have two years in which assessment increases would be capped at 3% to prevent the necessity of an additional proceeding.

“Many cooperatives and condominiums pay up to 35 percent of the savings gained through certiorari in fees to attorneys. There is no doubt that the fees are punitive in nature,” said Warren Schreiber, President of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance. “Certiorari filings not only appeal property valuations, they seek to correct assessment errors made by the NYC Department of Finance. The legislation introduced by Senator Stavisky and Assembly Member Braunstein will level the playing field and ease what is already a heavy financial burden placed upon the shoulders of middle class residents living in cooperatives and condominiums.”

James Goldstick, Managing Agent for Bay Terrace Section 8 Co-op, also emphasized the financial impact of the current structure of certiorari cases on Co-ops. “A Co-op should not have to spend approximately $35,000 of legal fees in 2012 after spending $37,000 in legal fees the previous year as a result of a tax certiorari settlement in 2011,” he said. “How can the City agree in a tax certiorari settlement that the market value of a property is worth $11,847,111 on October 1, 2011 and then increase it to $15,321,000 three months later?"

“Co-op shareholders deserve the right to have their day in court,” Stavisky concluded. “These bills will allow meritorious challenges, and help ease the fear of inconsistent and inaccurate assessments. That change will have a tremendous impact on the quality of life in New York’s Co-ops.”