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Lack of Transparency Hampers Efforts to Improve NYC Property Tax

Mayor-Elect Adams pledges to overhaul a system that has outlasted previous attempted fixes

The United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn, a community group, has received numerous complaints from struggling families shocked by high property tax bills.

The United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn, a community group, has received numerous complaints from struggling families shocked by high property tax bills.

Photographer: Bess Adler/Bloomberg

Of the many failed attempts to overhaul New York City’s unfair property taxes, Sam Stern’s comparatively small-scale campaign on behalf of Williamsburg’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community may offer the most pointed illustration of why the task is so difficult.

Stern, a Hasidic community activist, set out in 2014 to discover why his neighbors were taxed at higher effective rates than people at pricier addresses. He learned that city officials were setting taxable values for the community’s plain, low-rise condo buildings by comparing them with much more valuable luxury properties. Stern persuaded the city finance department to choose more-relevant comparisons.