“Our taxes have gone up a couple of hundred percent in just the six or seven years past and we’re never able to keep up,” explained Chinatown building owner Jan Lee.
He said he owes more than one $100,000 in city property taxes and water bills. One reason for the large debt: Several tenants lost jobs during the pandemic, and stopped paying rent.
“We were trying our best to catch up and then all of a sudden our revenues dried up,” he said.
Lee said he's trying to work out a payment plan with the city's finance department, but can't get through.
“They’re inundated right now," Lee thinks.
On Friday, the city plans to sell Lee’s debts and those of more than 9,000 others to third party investors who will then have the right to demand payment, plus fees and interest.
"Legal fees and worst of all, a nine or 18 percent rate that compounds daily," said NY State Attorney General Letitia James.
“We have to protect one, two and three family home owners,” said State Assemblyman David Weprin, a Democrat from Queens.
About a dozen city and state elected leaders held a news conference Wednesday.
“It is just inexplicable,” said State Senator John Liu, a Democrat from Queens.
They and more than forty other politicians signed a letter pleading with the mayor to put off the tax lien sale again.
“Mayor de blasio," Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said during the news conference, "if you do not do this, you are affirmatively deciding to make this crises worse.”
“The tax lien sale typically happens in March or April every year," said Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee. "It was postponed. Why? Because there was a state of emergency. That state of emergency, last time I checked, has not been lifted."
James alleged more than half of the 9,000 properties are supposed to be excluded under an agreement she hammered out with the mayor. They include one-to-three unit buildings and properties owned by non-profit organizations, like churches.
“All of those homes are still on the list, it is clearly unacceptable,” she said.
“I’m behind on both my water and my tax,” Crown Heights building owner Lincoln Eccles told NY1 via Zoom.
He was at a bank trying to get a loan around the time of the news conference and admits he owes $25,000 in back water bills, but says that his property tax bill is wrong and he’s fighting it.
“The lien sale situation will seize up all possibility of liquidity and make my situation extremely onerous and allow others to capitalize unfairly on this global crises,“ Eccles said.
Mayor de Blasio said this week these are properties that had gone into arrears before the pandemic and the sale Friday should generate nearly $60 million for a city in desperate need of funds.