LATINOJUSTICE PRLDEF, NAACP AND CBC FILE BRIEFS IN SUPPORT OF TENNY’S LAWSUIT

Contact: John Garcia, 212-739-7513, jgarcia@latinojustice.org

LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the NAACP and the Citizens Budget Commission each filed Amicus Curiae briefs this week in support of Tax Equity Now New York’s lawsuit seeking reform of New York City’s property tax system. TENNY is a coalition of homeowners, renters, rental property owners, civil rights and social justice organizations, that filed suit in April 2017 seeking reform of the New York City property tax system on the grounds that it is irrational, and unfairly burdens low income & minority neighborhoods. Despite widespread support for property tax reform in New York, the City and State are currently fighting the suit.

“We have brought together a diverse coalition of voices to help people understand the property tax system and to fight for change to a regressive, opaque and irrational system,” said Martha Stark, Director of Policy for TENNY. “Because the political will required for change has been lacking, we filed suit and are seeking justice through the court system. LatinoJustice, the NAACP and the Citizens Budget Commission are formidable allies in our cause for reform, and their supporting our lawsuit is a testament to the strength of our case. With organizations like these by our side, we will finally force policy-makers to find a solution and right a serious injustice.”

“LatinoJustice is committed to the protection of civil and human rights within Latino communities,” said Juan Cartagena, President of LatinoJustice. “We are very pleased for the opportunity to support TENNY’s efforts to reform NYC’s property tax system by submitting an amicus curiae brief in support of their lawsuit. We look forward to supporting their continued efforts fighting for reform of New York City’s broken property tax system alongside this diverse and broad coalition.”

Dr. Hazel N. Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference said, “New York City’s property tax system is aggressively regressive, shifting tax burdens away from the wealthy and onto the backs of minorities and lower income property owners and tenants in underserved communities throughout the City. We were among the first supporters of TENNY, and proud to submit briefs in support of the lawsuit, because it is long past time that this institutional racial injustice come to an end.”

Carol Kellermann, President of the Citizens Budget Commission said, “The City gets more than $24 billion in revenue from property taxes and we need to make sure the system is fair and transparent. For more than three decades we’ve been waiting for the City and State legislatures to address the inequities and economic inefficiencies in the design and administration of property taxes. We’re supportive of this action and believe that when the data that TENNY has assembled is presented in court, it will help foster a comprehensive restructuring of the system. It’s long overdue.

Judge Jonathan Lippman, Of Counsel at Latham & Watkins and attorney for TENNY, said, “Our case for reform is only made stronger by LatinoJustice , the NAACP and CBC joining our lawsuit. Our complaint makes clear that the longstanding and stark inequities in the current system are not just unfair, they are unlawful—violating provisions of the New York State Constitution, New York’s real property tax law, and federal law that require property taxes to be imposed uniformly and rationally. We look forward to seeking justice via the court system with these critical allies on our side.”

For decades, political leaders and independent analysts have decried New York City’s property tax system as unfair, antiquated, and outdated, and acknowledged that it imposes unequal tax bills on property owners that bear little relationship to their properties’ actual value. The system is regressive, and shifts the onus from wealthy Manhattan co-op and condo owners to renters and homeowners in the outer boroughs, disproportionately burdening neighborhoods primarily populated by racial and ethnic minorities and lower income families least able to afford it. The broken system also discourages the construction of rental housing, and is unfair to countless communities across the City.

The system’s problems are widespread and insidious: data shows that racial minorities are particularly harmed. According to recently released data from the New School Center for New York City Affairs, the inequities in the system “have a marked class and race dimension. The median income of renters is only half that of home and apartment owners, and racial minorities account for three-quarters of renters, but are slightly fewer than half of home and apartment owners.”

Higher assessments lead to higher taxes in minority-majority neighborhoods across the City. People of Color constitute a minority of the population in the 15 community planning districts in which condos, coops, and rental properties are taxed at the lowest effective tax rates. By contrast, People of Color constitute 72% of the 15 community planning districts in which those properties are taxed at the highest effective tax rates.

Over twice as many African-Americans and almost one-third more Latinos live in the 15 community planning districts in which one, two, or three-family homes pay the highest effective tax rates than the 15 community planning districts in which such properties are taxed at the lowest effective tax rates. Disparities between individual properties are often even starker. A home sold in 2015 in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn for $150,000 has the same exact property tax bill ($4,297) as one that sold the same year for $9,000,000 in Carroll Gardens, even though the latter property was 6000% times more valuable.

Moreover, the effective tax rate paid by homeowners in community planning districts with a population that is greater than 60% Latino is 20% higher than in districts that are more than 60% white. In other words, the taxes for Latinos per $1 million of market value is more than $8,600 compared to just $7,200 in districts that are white.

Link to Court filings: https://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/nyscef/CaseSearch Case number: 153759/2017

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