Tuesday, January 22, 2008

City Council bills would cost owners who warehouse property

In November, I wrote about how Boston, unlike New York, has changed tax policies to give owners of vacant or abandoned properties not in tax arrears a reason to sell or build, and how Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer was pushing for new policies in New York.

Now, as the Daily News reported last Wednesday, such empty buildings north of 110th St. would lose a tax break under state law.

Beyond that, according to the Daily News, a City Council bill sponsored by Council Member David Yassky would require "every owner of a vacant lot or residential building to file a notarized registration of his plans and pay an annual fee of up to $5,000 while the property is vacant."

Yassky spokesman Sam Rockwell told me that the Yassky's proposal also would mandated an annual survey of vacant land and lots: "The latter will help the City help landowners avoid fines--with the knowledge gained from the survey, the City can foster affordable housing development and the like in underutilized areas."

Populist City Council Member Tony Avella, according to City Limits, is taking an even harder line, planning a bill that would treat vacant housing as a nuisance and make owners who intentionally keep their land or buildings vacant subject to fines. (Presumably, the criteria will be more clear when the bill's introduced.)

The AY angle

What might such changes have meant for the Atlantic Yards footprint? They would've provided some more revenue to the city, and might have pushed the owners warehousing property to sell or build. And such laws would've provided an alternative to declaring stagnant properties blighted, as the state has determined.

In other words, eminent domain isn't the only tool to revitalize an area that has empty buildings or lots.

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