City reinstates improperly withheld co-op property tax abatement

September 14, 2022

Barbara Sproul did the impossible. She fought City hall – and won.

Sproul was a shareholder of the pre-war cooperative in 142 E. 71st Street since 1979, and she was once chair of the cooperative’s board of directors. Since her husband Herb Gardner, who died in 2003, she was the sole occupant of the apartment, which is her primary residence. For years she received the property tax reduction for cooperatives without a hitch. Then, in 2020, the The Department of Finance (DOF) informed her that she was no longer eligible.

The problem? “The tax abatement was refused,” says Sproul, “because our building manageraccording to a gentleman I spoke to at the Department of Finance, presented a incorrect reportwithout noting that I had been owner-inhabitant of the apartment since 1979. »

The co-op’s board changed management companies, but Sproul’s problem did not go away. When the new management company took over, they continued to charge Sproul’s bill each month – a total of approximately $4,000 a year. (The discount varies from 17.5% until 28.1%based on the average property value of the building.)

Sproul has not given up. Last summer, she met someone else at DOF. “The guy said the management companies were continually making grading mistakes,” Sproul says, “and they (DOF) were really tired of doing the corrections for them. So they wouldn’t change their rejection of the abatement request. Of course, I have no position with the DOF to dispute this.Our original management company is no help, nor is our new company.

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Then, after a request for Habitat, DOF changed tone. September 12, Jacqueline Gold, DOF assistant commissioner for external affairs, wrote to Sproul: “The department has completed its review. It appears that as part of a special review of unit owner eligibility status in 2020, the benefit for your unit was inadvertently removed (a DOF file only had your deceased husband’s name on it). The DOF has verified that we have information on ‘Barbara Sproul’ and we are reinstating your benefits for 2020 and 2021.”

When asked why the abatement was denied, Gold offered a terse response: “Managing agents provide DOF with principal resident status.”

To Sproul, she added that a remedy is in place: “(Your managing agent) will receive a revised and updated report for the 2020/21 tax year in December. The report will show a credit for the 2020/21 tax year. Your manager will assign credit accordingly. »

Although relieved, Sproul is left with a few questions. “I guess I’m not the only person in this kind of situation,” she says. “But what do people do when their management company makes such a mistake? Do you really need to hire a lawyer and sue? It would cost even more, and it involves money, time, and mental energy that I just don’t have for this stuff.

Indeed, she is not the only person in this kind of situation. Member of the city council Christophe Martewhose district covers the southern tip of Manhattan, has received complaints that echo those of Sproul.

“Many of our constituents say they were removed from the co-op and condo tax abatement program because they lacked a affidavit of prevailing salary», explains the director of land use of Marte, Conor Allerton. It refers to a new rule that co-ops and condominiums must pay their building staff wages in order to continue to receive the tax abatement – and they must file an affidavit to that effect with the DOF. “But they submitted the affidavit on time,” Allerton adds, “so it looks like a DOF mistake. The department is now investigating.

Allerton urges any New Yorkers who are having trouble with the co-op and condominium property tax abatement to contact Marte’s office at 212-587-3159.

Penny D. Jackson