Mayor pushes mansion tax in Queens visit
by Benjamin Fang
Mar 28, 2017 | 2575 views | 0 0 comments | 235 235 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mayor Bill de Blasio trekked to Astoria last Thursday to enlist the help of seniors to help pass a mansion tax on wealthy New Yorkers.

The proposed surcharge, which needs clearance in Albany, would increase the transactional tax on people buying homes worth $2 million or more. According to the mayor, the 2.5 percent marginal tax would raise $336 million annually.

The funds would then go to support 25,000 seniors citywide with rental assistance of up to $1,300 a month. Seniors 62 years and older who earn less than $50,000 per year can qualify for the Elder Rental Assistance Program, which would be established under the legislation.

“I think if someone can afford a home worth more than $2 million, they can afford to pay a little more on their transaction tax so seniors can have affordable housing,” de Blasio said. “They can afford to give a little more to help people who are struggling to make ends meet.”

At the senior center inside George T. Douris Towers, the mayor said that the average cost of a home covered by this tax sells for $4.5 million. Speaking about the city’s affordability crisis, de Blasio said the money generated would go a long way to helping seniors pay for the highest cost in their lives: housing.

“A lot of people who work hard their whole life are choosing between rent, medicine, doctor’s appointment and food,” he said. “They literally can’t get them all into their monthly budget.”

“Let’s do something bold and create affordable housing for people who need it,” de Blasio added. “The only way that’s going to happen is if we tax the wealthy, those who have done very well.”

The mansion tax has garnered support from the Democratically-controlled Assembly, which included the tax in its one-house budget. The proposal needs to be signed off by the State Senate and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

State Senator Diane Savino, who represents parts of Staten Island and south Brooklyn, has also sponsored a bill in the upper chamber for the mansion tax.

“When I put my name on a piece of legislation, I fight tooth and nail to see it through,” Savino said in a statement. “This is worth the fight. I will work to make each of my colleagues aware of how much of an impact this will make.”

Last week, the mayor went to Albany to rally in support of the tax. He also spoke about the idea at a senior center in the Upper East Side and in front of 432 Park Avenue, Manhattan’s tallest residential building.

In Astoria, de Blasio urged seniors to call their local representatives in the Senate and Governor Cuomo’s office to sign on.

“It’s a democracy, my friends. If enough people start calling, the politicians will pay attention,” de Blasio said. “We need everyone in this room to stand up and make your voices heard.”

Astoria resident Odette Lupis, who is an English conversation facilitator at the senior center, said she supports the mayor’s plan.

“I think it’s the only way to go,” Lupis said. “If they can pay $2 million [on a home], they can certainly afford to pay more taxes.”

Lupis said she lives in a rent-stabilized unit, but most of the other tenants in her building either came from Manhattan or are living with many roommates.

“The rents are prohibitively high in Astoria,” she said. “I know seniors who had to move in with relatives and out of the area.”

John Kaiteris, executive director of the nonprofit organization HANAC, which runs the center, said the facility is the “model for what affordable senior housing and services can be.”

“The need for affordable housing is so monumental it’s overwhelming,” Kaiteris said. “We have waiting lists of thousands of people.”

According to Kaiteris, on average, seniors wait between seven and nine years to get an affordable apartment.

He said after the Assembly included the mansion tax in its budget, the proposal has gained momentum that it didn’t have before. He was optimistic that it would pass in Albany.

“It’s worthy for us to be pushing it,” he said. “If the Senate passes it, I believe the governor will sign it.”
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