Serrano And Farrell Pass Vacant Properties Bill

José M. Serrano

June 20, 2008

Borough President's Vacant-Lot Report Culminates in Passage of State Legislation

Albany, NY - Senator José M. Serrano (D-Manhattan/Bronx) and Assemblyman Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr. (D-Manhattan) yesterday celebrated passage of their bill, S.6207/A.8666, which will tackle head-on the problem of vacant properties in Northern Manhattan.

"These are the targeted efforts we need to ease the city's housing crisis and bring the supply of affordable housing in line with the demand," said the Senator, who praised Borough President Scott Stringer for his long-time advocacy on the issue, including the 2007 release of New York City's first-ever vacant lot report.
"This bill could provide an incentive to build new, affordable housing in our community. We hope that the landlords will also make this housing environmentally friendly," Assemblyman Farrell said.
"This is the right legislation at the right time," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. "Getting rid of what was essentially an incentive for warehousing and real estate speculation will allow us to track down property owners and work with them to create new affordable housing stock.  It's a win for the neighborhoods, which will now lose a lot of neglected, graffiti and weed filled lots, and a win for our city as a whole, where the number one threat to our social and economic diversity is the current shortage of affordable housing.
The bill will remove the current special tax treatment for vacant land north of 110th Street in Manhattan. Such vacant properties are currently assessed at Class 1 rates, or 6 percent of market value; the possible annual increase in such taxable values is also capped. These properties will now be assessed at the Class 4 rate, or at 45 percent of full market value, and with no caps on the growth of annual assessments.
The tentative assessment roll for 2008 shows more than 400 such vacant properties in Manhattan. Taxing these properties at Class 4 rates will produce an estimated $5 million in new revenues. The bill also features a component to incentivize the development of affordable units on these sites.
"I know how difficult it is for my constituents to find housing in the city, and I am always disgusted to see properties that lay vacant," said Senator Serrano. "This bill employs tax policy to encourage the active use of buildings and lots. It will enliven neighborhoods, and benefit long-standing residents. In short, it will force landowners to respect the communities in which they invest."
The bill now heads to the desk of Governor David Paterson, a former State Senator in Harlem, before it becomes law.
"Today we see government taking a constructive and proactive role. We are closing loopholes and opening doors. With strong research and analytical tools - like the Borough President's report - we can keep pace with the chaotic real estate market of New York, and ensure we value human needs above future profit margins," said Senator Serrano.