Gimmie a 'J'... and a '421a' Sifting Through the Alphabet Soup of Tax Abatements

Four years ago, the co-op at 430 West 34th Street in Manhattan was in trouble. The 17-story, 168-unit vanilla brick building needed money - and needed it quickly. A couple of major capital projects, including new window installation, grouting and a boiler replacement, were looming, and the board didn't have the money to complete them.

"We needed a way to raise money," recalls Kim Oliver, a board member. "We're a lower middle-income co-op, and there is always something that needs to be repaired."

Trying to spare the shareholders an assessment, Oliver and the other board members explored the possibility of selling advertising space on the side of the building that faced 9th Avenue. But after a year of negotiations, the deal fell through - largely because the local community board was cracking down on banner advertising around the neighborhood.

The board members finally bit the bullet and leveled an assessment on all the shareholders. While that should typically be the end of the story, there is an epilogue. Last year, after the work was completed, the co-op board filed for a J-51 tax abatement, a 47-year-old city tax incentive program created to encourage residential owners to upgrade and maintain their building stock.

Each apartment received about a $300 tax credit through the abatement. With the money saved with the abatement, the co-op is moving ahead on another improvement project, repainting the hallways and putting in new carpeting and light fixtures.

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