BETWEEN THE BRICKS
The city’s annual lien sale list is out and property owners should check it even if they are up to date on their property taxes.
Owners could land on the list for unpaid water and sewer charges, emergency repairs or by some clerical error. They have until May 17 to cut a deal with the city that does not require a down payment. Then the city sells the liens to investors and surcharges apply.
Citywide, 21,910 buildings owe $439,493,333 in property taxes with $649,185,512 due in overall late charges. Properties owe over $130 million for water with $66 million of that from 5,090 multi-family residential buildings. Another 12,584 small homes owe another $65 million in water fees. “Other” Department of Environmental Protection bills add up to more than $150 million.
There are also emergency repair charges of $47.7 million citywide that are racked up when property owners don’t fix things like boilers fast enough or leave up dangerous buildings that need to be demolished.
We found several properties with spotless property tax payments but outstanding water or other charges.
The virtually empty Knickerbocker Hotel, which is undergoing renovations and is now divided up into commercial condominiums, has a water charge of around $44,000 and a late penalty of $2,000. The water bill was still attached to the main address. Did the water fall into The Gap, which is the only thing running there besides some workmen? One of the owners is now flushing this out.
The Daryl Roth Theater also had an outstanding water bill of nearly $34,000, including the $2,000 penalty. The theater is owned by and named after Vornado Realty Trust Chairman Steve Roth’s Tony award-winning wife, Daryl. A person at the theater said they had just became aware of the bill and were taking care of it. You’d think that this sophisticated real-estate company has a handle on their bills.
We found credits of $100,579.32 on one of Vornado’s retail lots at 731 Lexington Ave. because the Jan. 1 tax bill was paid using the July bill amount and not the legislatively adjusted amount reduced in mid-November. Yes, the city owes Vornado money.
The statement of account you get in the mail tells you that the city owes you money since promises were made 20 years ago that the Department of Finance would alert owners when there are credits.
Lawyers sometimes have liens on refund checks for overpayments, and when properties sell, credits may belong to different entities.
The supportive housing community also has problems that surfaced in the lien list. Two small apartment buildings owned by Clinton Housing Development Co. are still being charged for taxes after over a year of waiting. In one case, the deed was filed by a prominent lawyer with “N/A” for an address. Guess what? No bill could be sent anywhere. Finance officials quickly fixed that glitch this week and have always been responsive as we bring misfilings to their attention.
In one misfiling we uncovered, the addresses for two different water meters at the residential 260 Park Ave. South are attached through computer files to the JPMorgan Chase office building at 270 Park Ave. This is because the original document filings and deeds were not properly written by those that filed the documents. DEP is looking into this now.
Along with the often-made mistake of leaving out “South” for Park Avenue South addresses, we’ve also found address numbers transposed, causing documents to be filed on the wrong block and lot. This can be a headache for owners as one page states property and water bills will be sent to this address. And if the number is missing or wrong, the bill goes into the Twilight Zone.
Don’t think the 99 percent are immune to missed property tax payments, as residential condos are often purchased as investments or pieds-a-terre. We found missed bills by folks that own at the Plaza Hotel, Trump World Tower and 845 UN Plaza, as well as condominiums owned by a ritzy doctor on Park Avenue.
Properties that owe the most in city water charges are also on the lien list.
The largest water bills are owed by buildings in Queens where one factory owes over $1 million in water charges and is a regular on the lien list.
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