New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Habitat A New Way to Level the City’s Lopsided Property Tax System by New York City

A New Way to Level the City’s Lopsided Property Tax System

When he ran for mayor in 2013, Bill de Blasio promised to overhaul of the city’s out-of-whack property tax system. He repeated the promise during his re-election campaign in 2017. Reform has so far failed to materialize, but if two city council members have their way, a re-evaluation of the system will be required in 2030 and every 15 years after that, The Real Deal reports.

City council members Helen Rosenthal and Ben Kallos, both Manhattan Democrats, have introduced a bill to require the periodic reviews as a way of preventing the system from becoming warped over time, as has happened since the last major changes were made four decades ago. 

If the bill becomes law, it would create a commission appointed by the mayor and speaker to analyze the system in terms of “equity, efficiency, transparency, ease of administration, and compliance.” It would be required to hold two public hearings and issue a report with an analysis and recommendations by November 2030. The process would repeat every 15 years. 

The commission could not alter the system, and the council itself has limited power over property taxes. The power to overhaul the system belongs to the state Legislature. But it’s the hope of Rosenthal and Kallos that the panel could call attention to inequities in the system and create impetus to change it, as an ongoing lawsuit by a group called Tax Equity Now New York (TENNY) is attempting to do now. The group, an unlikely coalition of real-estate interests and social-welfare groups, claims the property-tax system violates state and federal laws and constitutions by disproportionately taxing low-income and minority homeowners and renters. Lawyers for the city and state argued in court last week to have the lawsuit dismissed. 

Meanwhile, as the lawyers’ fees pile up, the commission appointed by de Blasio has yet to produce its promised proposals to overhaul a system everyone agrees is lopsided and unfair – but which no one dares to fix because of the inevitable political fallout.

Issues

Get involved to make your voice heard.

Get monthly updates with the information you need to make a difference.