Guest op-ed: Property taxes are too damn high

I don’t know how many times I’ve gotta say it: New York City’s property tax system is not only outdated and unfair but the logic behind how much homeowners pay or how their house is assessed is a mystery.

I said it during my campaign, I’ve said it in previous op-eds, and I said it in an official joint statement with my City Council colleagues. And I’m not the only one: my district office is constantly taking property tax complaints and helping people fight their assessments.

Apparently, it’s an issue that bears repeating! Mayor de Blasio’s recent near-$90 billion budget includes no property tax relief. He has thus far turned a blind eye to the reforms that seniors, retirees and working class families in our neck of the woods so desperately need.

After all, almost all homeowners in Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach and Bensonhurst are paying taxes at a higher assessed rate than homeowners in other wealthy neighborhoods like Park Slope—including Mayor de Blasio himself. Not only does that not make sense, it is just not fair.

Our absurd and enigmatic property tax system doesn’t only affect homeowners, it affects renters, too. Our neighborhood is certainly not immune to skyrocketing rents and that is why it is equally indefensible for renters to carry effective tax rates about five times the effective rates for condos and one to three-family homes.

But we cannot allow these broken policies to pit renters against owners, especially when there is broad agreement among experts across the spectrum that comprehensive residential property tax reform is long overdue.

We need to do three things: first, correct the problems with the current state law. Second, create a circuit-breaker provision that would limit property taxes and tie it to your family income. And lastly, if and when property taxes decline on rental properties, tenants of rent-stabilized units need a guarantee that savings will be passed on to them and not redirected elsewhere.

Make no mistake: The people of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach and Bensonhurst are right up there with those hit the hardest by the current system.

The financial struggles faced by homeowners and renters alike cannot be ignored any longer. That’s why I will continue to fight throughout the budget negotiation process for property tax rebates, and I will push as long as I have to for fairness throughout our city.

Serious and lasting long-term solutions for the problems with property taxes are complicated and will take time—they will require changes in state law, city law and Department of Finance rules. However, there is simply no indication that this administration intends to even start address the glaring inequities in our property tax system, and that is unacceptable.

I can’t promise that there’s a quick silver bullet, but I can promise that I won’t stop working to fix our absurd property tax system until people across my district and the city are treated fairly.

Justin Brannan represents the 43rd Councilmanic District.


  1. You need to get Madison Square Garden and other big businesses who can afford big taxes to start paying the property taxes they avoid, Justin – otherwise you just look like a hypocrite and an opportunist.

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