Let’s fix the fundamental problems with the New York City property tax system.
For over two decades, New York City’s political leaders and independent analysts have acknowledged, repeatedly, that the City’s property tax system is fundamentally unfair and inequitable, imposing substantially unequal tax bills on similarly-appraised properties that bear little relationship to properties’ actual market values.
In fact, the system is aggressively regressive – shifting the tax burdens away from wealthier homeowners and onto the backs of lower income property owners and tenants.
The current system imposes higher effective tax rates on renters and homeowners in less affluent neighborhoods, as compared to the owners of higher value single-family homes, condos, and coops.
These inequities in the system have continued to widen, penalizing renters, small- and large-business owners, homeowners in slower-appreciating neighborhoods, minorities, and various other New Yorkers, who carry an unfair share of the City’s tax burden compared to owners of other property.
There are a number of problems with the current system:
- Within each tax class there are inequities—homes with the same sales-price or market value pay very different tax amounts
- There are inequities between owners in different tax classes—a small home in Brooklyn may pay more in taxes than a very high-priced cooperative apartment in Manhattan
- Commercial property owners pay a very high tax burden compared to the taxes they would pay if they located their business almost anywhere else in the country
- Apartment building owners also pay a very high tax burden making it difficult to build and keep affordable housing units
- Staten Island homeowners are likely to pay much more than similarly priced homes in parts of Brooklyn
- The method used to estimate market value for co-ops and condos is convoluted and is unrelated to the sales price for those units.
Because the political system is unlikely to address the problem, it is time to go through the legal system – the stark inequities in the current system are not just unfair, they are unlawful.
New York’s Constitution and various provisions of New York’s real property tax law require that property taxes be imposed uniformly within each property class. They are not. And even between classes, a property’s tax bill must be rationally related to its value. They are not. The current property tax system violates both requirements.
A broad coalition of New Yorkers is supporting our effort at reforming the tax reform, including homeowners and renters, business and trade associations, academics, good government organizations, and public interest groups such as the NAACP, which represent constituencies disproportionately and unlawfully disfavored by the current system.
The coalition is not seeking financial remuneration from the lawsuit – we are simply seeking to ensure that New York City has a property tax structure that is fair, lawful, and best serves the needs of its residents.
This lawsuit will lead to a system that is fair, easy to understand, and that raises enough revenue for the City to provide vital services.
TENNY is the plaintiff in litigation against the City and State to fix NYC’s property taxes. Many individuals and organizations support TENNY’s efforts to reform the property tax system, including:
- New York City Homeowners and Renters
- Black Institute
- Citizens Budget Commission
- Community Housing Improvement Program
- Citizens Housing Planning Council
- The Durst Organization
- Lafayette Astor LLC
- Latino Justice PRLDEF
- Regional Plan Association
- Rent Stabilization Association
- Silverstein Properties
- Two Trees
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Habitat Magazine: City’s Lopsided Property Taxes Favor the Rich
Queens Chronicle: Property tax system needs changes, officials say
Staten Island Advanced: Staten Island homeowners have highest effective property tax rate
Crain’s New York Business: De Blasio slams lawsuit that calls property taxes racially biased
New York Daily News: N.Y.C. property tax in Albany shackles
Crain’s New York Business: The true story of the city’s unfair property taxes
New York One: NY1 Online: A Tale of Two Taxes?
New York Daily News: Politicians sue city over racially biased, unfair property tax system
Crain’s New York Business: Calling politicians hopeless, landlords and tenants sue to fix property taxes
New York Daily News: Numbers show NYC’s broken property tax system is hammering minority homeowners
POLITICO: New York Playbook
Spectrum News State of Politics: Here and Now
City and State: First Read