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Citylights Residents Protest for Tax Relief
The deal behind Amazon's second headquarters in Long Island was criticized by a gathering of residents from neighborhood co-op, CityLights, organized by New York City's Comptroller, Scott M. Stringer, on Jan. 3. Initially promised affordable housing—the residents say they're now being pushed out of their homes by the city's deal with the multinational company. "Now, we love people who come here ... but there's a covenant that must be kept; and that covenant says very clearly: Yes, change comes, and skylines change, but people who built our communities—our pioneers—they must stay, and they must be celebrated for building our city," said Stringer at the gathering. In 1996, the 42-story building, equipped with 522 units was built during a time, was built on the Queens waterfront. Its units are sold for around $800,000 and below, while its rentals range from $3,000-$2,000. CityLights was the first residential high-rise building built on the waterfront, according to Spectrum News. Amazon's second headquarters, covering an initially estimated 4,000,000 square feet, will now neighbor CityLights after its agreement with city. Another headquarters will be built in Virginia. The Heavy Burden on CityLights Since the expiration of the building's abatement and the Department of Finance's new assessment, the building's assessment nearly doubled from last year's $51 million, to $101 million in fiscal year 2019, according to a letter sent to Mayor de Blasio by Stringer. This means that the monthly carrying charges of the residents may increase by 60 percent over the next five years. For over 20 years, CityLights has provided affordable housing for the middle-class, and since its opening, the neighborhood has seen positive changes; positive changes that have attracted large corporations like Amazon. But Amazon's arrival in the neighborhood will add to the residents' burden, as Shelley Cohen, a CityLights resident explains: "The city determines out assessed value based on the value of the properties around us; so as the properties around us increase in value, the value of our taxes goes up" Tax relief is what the residents want. As Stringer put it, "all we're asking for is some mitigation to keep the people who made this land so valuable in the first place." Priced Out Residents Part of the residents' argument is the billion dollars of tax breaks that Amazon will receive for building their headquarters in Long Island. According to Stringer, currently there is no benefit, no abatement, and no recognition for the efforts that CityLights residents have put into the community. Now they're being priced out, he added. "When my family and I moved to long Island City decades ago, there wasn't even a supermarket, let alone a Duane Reade,"said a press release. "If the City and the State can work together to lure Amazon, they can find a way to relieve us of our ground lease." According to Stringer's letter, by the end 2023, residents will "face a property tax bill of $5.8 million at the current valuation—or an additional average monthly cost of neatly $1,000 per unit. The first step to resolving this issue, Stringer said is to get Empire State Development and the Department of Finance to come together and make a plan.