City and Developers make deal to double tax homeowners

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities


Have you ever wondered why local governments are so enthusiastic about approving construction contracts for common interest communities with HOAs?

It comes down to one thing. The money. Specifically, property tax revenue. And in many cases, local governments double dip into the tax revenue abyss.

One case in point: Boerum Hill townhouses on State Street, one of Brooklyn’s most posh neighborhoods.

The New York Post recently reported that homeowners are being taxed more than $1,000 annually for the privilege of having front stoops (a stairway leading to the front door, for those unfamiliar with the term), a traditional architectural design of surrounding 19th century brownstones in the tree-lined, historic neighborhood.

Homeowners forced to pay over $1,000 a year just to sit on steps

By Julia Marsh, Jan. 23, 2017

It’s every Brooklynite’s inalienable right to sit on their own stoops — but that didn’t stop a developer and the city from devising a scheme to tax them over it, a group of homeowners claims.

Nearly three dozen property owners in Boerum Hill say they are being charged more than $1,000 a year just to use the steps leading to their homes.

“It’s one of those weird, bureaucratic things that doesn’t make sense,’’ said resident Luke Gunnell, 50, who is forced to shell out $1,154 every year to use his stoop.

He and 33 other residents bought their stunning town houses, on the leafy north side of State Street between Hoyt and Smith streets, for as much as $2.4 million starting in 2008.

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Doing a little research, I was able to determine that HS Development Partners built 14 NEW townhouses circa 2008.(See this press release:

Marvel Architects designed these luxury homes, plus an additional 9 that were completed in 2013. 

In all, there were 23 new townhouses built to harmonize with historical brownstones that make Boerum Hill famous.

These are not your average townhouses. We are talking award-winning, high-end, luxury townhouses. According to marketing information, the homes are 4000 square foot, 4-5 bedroom, stand-alone structures with sale prices starting at $2.5 million in 2007. Some have sold for more than $4 million.

The Wall Street Journal featured Boerum Hill townhouses in this 2013 article. 

Sounds great, right? Except that owners essentially rent their front stoops from the City of Brooklyn.

So…How did it happen that owners are paying additional taxes for their front entries?

To make the homes as large as possible, the developer made a deal with the City of Brooklyn to build the exterior front entry stairs to encroach on the existing public sidewalk by about 6 feet.

Of course, the City is collecting substantial additional property tax for the extra square feet of finished interior space.

Likewise, the developer was able to sell homes at higher price, due to higher interior finished square footage.

But instead of the City arranging for an easement with property owners, it has decided to tax them $1,000+ annually for the essential front stoops that connect their homes to the public sidewalk. That’s a money grab.

And yes, technically, the deal with the developer amounts to a land grab of public space, but then why did the City agree to it in the first place? The homes could have been made smaller, with the stairs fitting within the boundaries of private lots.

More proof that Developers and municipal tax greed are at the heart of new construction, redevelopment, common interest communities and HOAs.


1 thought on “City and Developers make deal to double tax homeowners

  1. Norman McCullough January 25, 2017 — 1:00 pm

    If someone is injured by tripping over these steps that placed in their path on a six foot wide sidewalk, it will eventually find it,s way to a Court Decision who to blame for the injuries. Until then John Q Public is at the mercy of HOA Developers, HOA Boards and Managers, and HOA Lawyers, and complacent “GO-Along” local politicians.


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