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What's Wrong with New York City's Property Tax? And How We Can Fix It

Wednesday April 2009

Panelists: Edmund J. McMahon, Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute, Director, Empire Center for New York State Policy; Rosemary Scanlon, Associate Professor of Economics, Schack Institute of Real Estate, New York University; Steven Spinola, President, Real Estate Board of New York; Martha E. Stark, Commissioner, New York City Department of Finance

Moderator: Hope Cohen, Deputy Director, Center for Rethinking Development

Every few years, policymakers and good-government groups notice anew that New York City’s property tax structure is arbitrary, counterproductive, and unfair. But somehow, this has seldom been enough to generate fundamental improvements. Even when reforms are introduced, they are invariably criticized by experts as too little, too late. Indeed, some reforms have made matters worse. With the economy in crisis and Wall Street in dire straits, the city and state are facing huge budget deficits. Now may be exactly the time to address the property tax’s inequities, reconsider the structure, simplify the system – and capture an untapped source of revenue. The city can no longer afford – fiscally or socially – to tax new construction more than twice as heavily as it does the most valuable residential real estate in Manhattan.

Rosemary Scanlon highlighted the key issues, as identified by her analysis for the Manhattan Institute of the most important studies and commission reports. Steven Spinola and E.J. McMahon will discuss the imbalances between old and new, owning and renting, commercial and residential – and what they mean for New York’s future. And Finance Commissioner Martha Stark will describe her efforts