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Owners applaud Cuomo move to delay tax lien sale

New York landlords have applauded Governor Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Letitia James for forcing the city to postpone a planned tax lien sale.

“The tax lien sale would have done permanent damage to thousands of struggling building owners and their tenants,” said Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP).

JAY MARTIN

“But this is just a temporary measure. Renters in New York still badly need help from the federal government. It is past time that Congress acted.” 

Governor Cuomo signed a new Executive Order last Friday that prevents the city from holding its annual tax and water lien sale.

With an estimated 9,100 property owners behind on their water and tax bills, the sale was expected to bring in some $57 million to city coffers.

But in a statement, Cuomo said New Yorkers deserved a break in the wake of the “enormous disruption” caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“COVID-19 caused enormous disruption in the daily lives of New Yorkers, including their ability to keep a roof over their head,” said the Governor. “The tax and water lien sale was delayed in May in recognition of this hardship, and given the current economic climate, it makes sense to delay it again so that homeowners aren’t facing further uncertainty.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio had planned to hold the sale of thousands of liens on September 25 after initially delaying it from May, 2020. However, the Governor’s executive order supersedes city mandate.

He said postponing the lien sale would give property owners more time to work with the city on a “path forward.”

CHIP, a group that represents the owners of 400,000 rent stabilized apartments in the city, has argued that the lien sale will wipe out decades of equity built up by working-class immigrants who have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group said building owners who have fallen behind in their property tax payments are almost exclusively mom-and-pop shops and many have renters who have not paid any rent for more than four months.

Announcing the latest delay, Attorney General James aid, “As the economic impacts of COVID-19 rage on, the tax lien sale puts an unnecessary financial burden on New York’s homeowners, and especially communities of color.

“It is the responsibility of government to relieve the financial hardships of the people wherever possible, not exacerbate them. I am proud that my office worked with Governor Cuomo and his team to take immediate action to protect hardworking homeowners during this stressful time.”

Under the new executive order, the tax lien sale is suspended for at least 30 days, but it can be renewed in a month as the governor has done with other pandemic-related orders.

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