Getting Politicians to Care About Your Building A Guide to Engaging Local Officials

Back in 2011, New York City’s Department of Finance released its annual property assessments for residential buildings in all five boroughs, and co-op and condo residents in Northeastern Queens were not happy with the results. The valuations were comically high, double- and triple-digit increases, setting up huge city property tax increases.

Communities immediately pushed back, but not by themselves. The effort instead was led by The Presidents Co-op and Condo Council, a Queens advocacy group that represents over 100,000 shareholders, unit owners, and their families. Leaders of the council, which include co-presidents Warren Schreiber and Bob Friedrich, were able to meet personally with DOF officials to contest the assessments.

“We were told in one instance that in previous years they were undervaluing us, and they had no data to back it up,” said Schreiber. So, the organization called up John Liu, the city’s comptroller at the time. Liu, who already had a working relationship with the Presidents Council, ended up auditing the DOF and found that its assessments in Northeastern Queens were indeed erroneously high. In the years since, assessment increases for condos and co-ops in the area have stayed below 10 percent.

From tax law to housing rights, co-ops and condos are unique legal entities. They’re not single-family homes, and they’re not rental properties either—which makes it even more necessary to make your voice heard on a local, state, and even federal level. There may be no one else out there to go to bat for your building.

A few citywide organizations do exist, like the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums, and there are smaller civic associations buildings can and should become involved with, but few buildings participate in local or neighborhood groups like the Presidents Council that work specifically on co-op and condo issues. Here are some tips on how to get started on making friends and influencing people.

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