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City says glitch distorted values of boro condos

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The city Department of Finance acknowledged Monday that a computer glitch was partly responsible for grossly inaccurate property tax valuations for co-ops and condos and vowed to correct the errors, but co-op and condo advocates said they will only be satisfied when co-ops and condos receive notice of the blunder.

Finance spokesman Owen Stone said the glitch, which caused commercial properties to be used as comparables – or the basis for coming up with the values – for property tax valuations for co-ops and condos, affected about 24 properties, including some in Queens.

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) said an assistant finance commissioner told her there were errors but could not give her a list of them and she filed a Freedom of Information Law request as a result.

“We cannot wait while the commissioner decides what information to release,” she said in a statement. “I believe, as a co-op shareholder and as an elected official, that my constituents are entitled to full disclosure. That is why I filed the FOIL request.”

The glitch and other inaccuracies caused many Queens co-ops and condos to receive skewed valuations, with some getting as high as a 125 percent increase over last year’s figures.

The valuations were for property taxes that go into effect in the upcoming fiscal year in July and Stone noted that no co-ops or condos had to pay the tax based on the faulty numbers.

Stone said the Finance Department is in the midst of making revisions to its original figures and is in the process of sending out notices to co-ops and condos informing them of the corrections.

Under law, co-ops and condos are supposed to be treated as rent-stabilized rental properties, but legislators and advocates say that formula is still flawed and are seeking to have co-ops and condos treated as homes.

A number of town hall meetings in the borough, including one attended by Finance Commissioner David Frankel, were set up in response to the shocking valuations.

Glen Oaks Village President Bob Friedrich noted that the department denied there were any errors during the town halls.

“It’s nice that they’re scrambling right now and acknowledged they made mistakes,” he said. “Now that we caught them red-handed, they acknowledged that they made mistakes and these mistakes are profound. These flawed valuations cannot be allowed to be implemented.”

City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens), who planned a Council hearing on the property tax valuation issue as head of the Council Co-op and Condo Caucus, said he wants to see the Finance Department’s numbers, saying the original valuations “were so out of whack.”

Weprin stopped short of saying Frankel should resign or be fired by Mayor Michael Bloomberg over the errors.

“I don’t want to go for that at the moment,” Weprin said. “I just hope he makes amends.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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