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November 14, 2008



Mayor Bloomberg is proposing to raise property taxes by 7% as early as January in order to avoid a budget shortfall. While you can't challenge the tax rate, you can contest your property tax assessment, says Joe Giminaro, co-manager of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan's Tax Certiorari Group, whom we visited in his Maiden Lane office.  The next opportunity to appeal your assessment before the Tax Commission is between January 15 and March 1—but now is the time to start preparing.


Consider this a relatively painless tutorial (after all, we’re mainly pictures):  Property is assessed at a percentage of its market value, but since the City relies on rental income data to determine market value, a drop in asset price doesn't necessarily mean a decrease in assessment, Joe tells us. Since the City uses data that is often a year or more old, it’s looking at 2007 numbers (remember that real estate market?). So if your rents were up and vacancies down last year, you might see an assessment increase come January. Luckily, Joe’s tips: Maintain good records; prepare your case early (especially if you’re already experiencing drop-offs in rent collections or higher vacancies); file your appeal with the City in a timely matter (filing deadlines are hard and fast, no excuses); know how the economy affects your tenants; and (of course) hire a good tax attorney.


Take it from an Eagle Scout—Joe knows a thing or two about preparation. When he’s not busy with tax appeals, he’s helping son William move up the Scouting pole. Both are also black belts in martial arts. And if you like Thin Mints, daughter Katie is in Girl Scouts—we hear Joe's taking orders.

School Rules

The construction industry is experiencing an overall deterioration in quality of work, with master builders dying out and more people working without proper educational and safety training. That’s what Vincent Battista says, whom we caught up with recently at the Institute of Design and Construction’s Brooklyn campus, which he leads as president. New York has been developing so fast over the past two years that equipment has gone from site to site without sequential inspections, and workers find themselves in dangerous situations without the skills to get through them. Although the City has responded with new training and safety initiatives, many were implemented after unfortunate events.


“When there’s a boom, a worker’s mentality has been, ‘Why should I go to school?’” Vincent says. In turn, he’s been trying to impress upon the industry that education is an investment for all workers, and they only need to attend relevant training and classes. For employers, it’s a small amount of money, but the payback in the end is greater because workers are smarter and safer. If you listen closely, the Moses statue in the school lobby is saying, “Let your people go!”

Arent Fox
Reznick Group
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