Urging alternatives to the city's absentee landlord
surcharge, homeowners groups told officials Friday to tax slumlords instead.
The proposal springs from the threat that the city will soon bill owners of
one-, two- and three-family houses for an absentee surcharge they do not owe.
Current collection plans put the onus on homeowners to prove they live in
the house or don't collect rent, and thus do not owe the 25 percent surcharge.
The city Finance Department said that without such proof they cannot
discern who really owes the tax, budgeted to boost city revenue by $44 million
"This is guilty 'til proven innocent, and it's time for us to lay off this
particular tax and look at alternatives for raising money for the city," said
Steve Aronson, director of the Pratt Area Community Council.
The Brooklyn-based council and affiliates of church and community groups
connected with Nehemiah homeowners groups said the city should go after
buildings with outstanding housing-code violations. Nehemiah, an
affordable-housing program coordinated through church councils, is supported by
Unlike the case with absentee landlords, the city's Department of Housing
Preservation and Development has extensive records of numerous residences with
10 or more outstanding code violations, Aronson said.
City officials have yet to react to the proposal. Mayoral and Council aides
met with the representatives Friday.
"So far we are making some progress in terms of repealing the absentee
Nehemiah Homeowners Association.
Charles Ossa, vice president of the Brownsville Nehemiah Homeowners
Association, said, "We need the city to rigorously enforce the code [and] slap
an additional surcharge on slumlords to make them wake up. ... That will get
the city needed revenue.
"The absentee landlord surcharge is going to be a nightmare - with
communication, collection, everything. That's why we're here today to say,
repeal it entirely, and the city should look at other revenues," Ossa said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said he supports repealing the surcharge, which
he signed into law July 14.
Council Speaker Gifford Miller opposes a repeal but supports a delay in the
billing until March, giving tax officials time to figure out who really owes
The Finance Department, meanwhile, has drafted rules calling for the
surcharge to be billed this month but allowing owners until March to file
Repeal and delay bills are expected to be introduced in the Council next