Attorney General Moves to Dismiss Major Property Tax Suit

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently moved to dismiss a class action suit seeking to overturn existing city and state property tax laws, which the plaintiffs contend is racially discriminatory. The class action suit was filed in February and seeks to overturn a property tax system that’s widely acknowledged to benefit single-family homeowners in wealthy neighborhoods at the expense of homeowners in less wealthy ones. It also benefits homeowners as a class at the expense of renters, a disproportionate number of whom are black and Hispanic.

One of the plaintiffs in the suit is a Bronx renter named Ernest Robinson, who, at the time the suit was filed, paid $800 every month for his studio apartment. Assuming, as the Rent Guidelines Board does, that roughly a third of that went to pay his landlord's property taxes, then Robinson's annual tax levy was about $2,880. Last year, the Citizens Budget Commission concluded that in fiscal year 2014, the owners of one-, two-, and three-family homes paid 15 percent of the city's property taxes, even though they comprised 46 percent of the city's real-estate value. And apartment buildings paid 37 percent of the levy, even though they comprised 24 percent of its value.

In his filing, the Attorney General contended that the court lacks jurisdiction, that the plaintiffs have failed to state a cause of action, and that the "injunctive relief sought by Plaintiffs violates separation of powers principles."