crown CU Home > Libraries Home
[x] Close window

Columbia University Libraries Digital Collections: The Real Estate Record

Use your browser's Print function to print these pages.

Real estate record and builders' guide: v. 18, no. 454: November 25, 1876

Real Estate Record page image for page ldpd_7031128_018_00000365

Text version:

Please note: this text may be incomplete. For more information about this OCR, view About OCR text.
Real Estate Record AND BUILDERS' GUIDE. Vol. XVIII. NEW YOEK, SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 1876. No. 454 Published Weekly by TERMS. ONE YEAR, in advance.. ..$10.00. Communications should be addressed to C. -SV. SWEET, Nos. 345 AND 347 Broadway. TAX VALUATIONS. IS The tax-gather is an unAvelcome visitor Avitli whom the American public during the past ten years has become painfully familiar; and in the City of New York particularly has this individual asserted his prominence, and intruded himself into our domestic and busi¬ ness affairs. No community in the world can be said to surpass that of the city of New York in the promptness and cheerful¬ ness with Avliich taxes are paid. If evidence of these characteristics is wanting, a visit to the tax receivers ofiBce during the months of October and November would be enough to satisfy the most incredulous. The tax A'^aluations of real estate and personal pro¬ perty—that is to say, the arbitrary valuations set up by the Commissioners of Taxes, as the basis on which the annual budget of the city is levied, is an item of all-important and transcendent interest to our citizens. Before determining the rate per cent of taxation, it becomes necessary to establish the gross valuations of real and personal property. It Avill be readily seen that the rate of taxation may be relatively low; yet, by excessive or exaggerated valuations the tax payer will be mulcted, perhaps un¬ consciously, in a heavy sum of taxation. And vice versa, a low scale of valuations of property would lead to a correspondingly higher per centage of taxation. It Avould be interesting to study in detail the whole sub¬ ject of the basis of our taxation. It is well knoAATi that in all the past history of our city, the methods and systems, whereby this aggregate of value has been determined and estabhshed, are of the most crude and hap¬ hazard description. Corrupt influences, es¬ pecially under the Tweed administration crept in and modified these values largely. Personal considerations, party influence and ignorance have all done their share in derang¬ ing the basis of valuation, and it is safe to say that the values established and adopted for the purposes of taxation in this city, are the most incongruous, irrational and un¬ scientific, not to say untrustworthy that can be imagined. Cases frequently occur of ad¬ joining lots of equal size and value showing a large disparity in the tax valuation assessed. It is Avell known that the Astor and Stewart estates are assessed very heaA'ily.iQ the mat¬ ter of real estate—^the valuations running up to the fuU market prices of to-day. Yet in the matter of their personal estates, they are made to respond in very inconsiderable amounts, although it is surmised that their personal property largely exceeds the value of their real estate. The present commissioners are the ablest and most intelligent that haA'e ever presided over this department of our city government. They represent a happy admixture of prac¬ tical and theoretical knowledge. Messrs. Wheeler and Hayward are trained, accom¬ plished and successful merchants ; while Mr. Andrews is a recognized authority in this country and in Europe, particularly on the subject of municipal taxation; a science which he has grappled with and completely mastered. Under their management the oflSice has been thoroughly systematized and put in good working order, accompanied by that best result of practical reform—increas¬ ed efficiency at reduced running expenses. So much for the perfunctory discharge of their duties. The subjects, however, of the standards and methods of valuation have scarcely been touched by these gentlemen, for the simple reason that they were called to office in the midst of dire calamity and overwhelming disaster in the real estate market, as well as in the business community at large, and their principal problem for the last year or tAvo has been to contrive ways and means of sustaining the valuations al¬ ready assessed upon property, so as to avoid an apparent and inordinate increase in the rate per cent of taxation, which would fol¬ low from any wide-spread reduction of ex¬ isting valuations in connection with the growing and irrepressible annual budget of the city. We could wish the whole sub¬ ject of the rcAision of tax valuations placed in no better hands than those of the present commissioners. But in view of the proved inequitable, partial and discriminating char¬ acter of the existing valuations Ave feel bound to urge upon the real estate commu- rdty the necessity of taking up the subject in its entirety, reorganizing the cornplex sys¬ tem, and readapting the valuations to the new order of prices which is gradually be¬ coming established in the real estate market. It is well-known that in former years the commissioners claimed to assess only sixty per cent, of the current market values. This course was adopted with a view of providing against the sudden and capricious turns of the market, believing that sixty per cent, of then existing values would be reasonably stable and reliable through all seasons. Now that real estate has declined on an average of thirty or forty per cent, it is interesting to know whether the coinmissioners propose to make a corresponding reduction in their assessed A-alues. It is intimated, that they have determined, for the present at least, to maintain their old A^aluations intact on the ground that they are allowed by law to assess the full value of property, and that sixty per cent of old values at which property now stands assessed, represents to-day no more than fulLvalue of property, and hence they propose to allow the valuations to remain un¬ disturbed. It were weU for tax-payers to be made aware if it be the case, that in future real estate is to be assessed at its full market val¬ ue, and requisite in the highest degree that all owners shall be made to conform to this rule without partiality, preference or ex¬ emption. A case was reported to us recently of a bank building on Third avenue which was formerly assessed at $60,000. It was sold last spring for |55,000 at auction. There- Aipon the purchaser claimed and actuaUy obtained a reduction of the tax valuation thereon to |38,000. This building has re¬ cently been sold by the last purchaser at $85,000, realizing a profit of $30,000. It re¬ mains to be seen whether the tax valuation will be increased or at least reinstated in con¬ sequence of this sudden and remarkable rise in market value. We appeal to the Commis¬ sioners to define their pohcy in respect to these tax valuations. They will not be al¬ lowed to make fish of one and flesh of an¬ other. Let the rule apply universally, if re¬ ductions of value are to be the order of the day. Let aU our citizens have the benefit of those reductions. Any partiality or prefer¬ ence shown in times like these wiU reflect discreditably upon the Commissioners and imperil their weU-won honors. Our OAvn opinion is, that the times and the situation call for a radical, comprehensive and scien¬ tific revision and readjustment of the entire subject. We venture to suggest a plan or course of procedure that will define more clearly our sense of the problem. It is, that the whole island be plotted out in sections of convenient size, and that the values of the bare vacant land within each of these sec¬ tions should be determined by experts, and that valuations of land so established and arranged should be classified and held to be standard and unvarjdng in each of the sev¬ eral disti-icts. The buildings or improve¬ ments should be made the subject of separate classifications and estimates. The advantage of diAddingthe city into these convenient sections would be the grouping of certain neighborhoods closely allied and subject to about the same set of influences, while the separation of- the land value from the build