The co-op and condominium community was hit hard in June when the state Legislature adjourned without renewing the city Tax Abatement and J51 programs. These programs were implemented decades ago and have helped equalize the disparity in taxes paid by co-ops and condominiums and have provided needed dollars through tax abatements that have helped maintain the city’s aging housing infrastructure.
Under heavy pressure from the Presidents Co-op & Condo Council, legislators at that time promised that a special legislative session would be convened between the November elections and the New Year in order to restore these programs retroactively. The PCCC recently met with more than a half dozen of these legislators to keep the pressure on and plan a strategy to protect the affordability of Queens co-ops and condos.
I founded the PCCC and developed it with Warren Schreiber, president of a Bay Terrace co-op and community leader in northeast Queens. It is a credible organization of articulate community leaders that have educated and worked with elected officials. It is a think tank of co-op and condo board presidents created to represent the large number of co-ops and condos in Queens and elsewhere in the city.
Elected officials at what can best be described as a power brunch at the Beechhills co-op community room in Little Neck were on hand to listen and support the PCCC’s plan of action. U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Hauppauge), state Sens. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), state Assembly members Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) and Grace Meng (D-Flushing), City Councilmen Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) and Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) and city Comptroller John Liu felt confident a special session would soon be called and were ready to roll up their sleeves to get working on these issues.
Without legislative action to renew the Tax Abatement and J51, co-op owners could expect to see crushing monthly maintenance increases to offset the significant rise in property taxes.
Co-ops and condos have been under siege by skyrocketing property taxes, water rates that have doubled in the past decade and numerous unfunded mandates by the Council, which have imposed significant cost burdens on co-ops without providing money to pay for them. Elected officials must begin to understand that the cost burdens imposed upon co-ops by well-meaning but misguided legislative mandates have serious financial consequences.
Within the last few years, co-ops have been forced by the city under threat of penalties to benchmark their energy consumption. To do this, an entire cottage industry of costly bean counters has been created to provide these services and produce the reams of documents required by the city that will somehow be used to force co-ops to become more energy efficient. The problem here is that most energy consumption in a co-op comes from individual apartment dwellers and is beyond the control of the co-op or condominium board.
But when Councilman Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) pushed this bill through, little thought was given to this or its financial impact. When the city imposes such cost burdens on co-ops without providing the necessary funding, it is the struggling families that are forced to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for these mandates.
These issues are fundamental to the affordability and well-being of our co-op and condo communities. Perhaps northeast Queens community leader Schreiber said it best when he said, “These constant legislative attempts to undermine a co-op/condo’s right to self-determination and governance is a serious problem.”
Bob Friedrich is a community leader and president of Glen Oaks Village.
©2012 Community News Group
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