Defending Community Anchors: Protecting Our Places from Tax Lien Foreclosure

Charity organizations own buildings that house daycares and mosques, arts organizations and churches, food pantries and theaters; they own land for community gardens, playgrounds and farms. State law is clear that they are all entitled to property tax exemptions from the date they purchase the property until they don’t own it anymore. Yet, New York City’s Department of Finance (DOF) puts community property at risk: when charities do not apply for and annually renew the tax exemptions they are entitled to get from the City under New York State law, the City sells the accumulated debt to private entities for collection and potential foreclosure.

Our primer, “Protecting Our Places: Know Your Rights on Not-for-Profit Property Tax Exemptions,” helps charities protect community property from tax-lien sales and apply for nonprofit tax exemptions.

The #ProtectOurPlaces Coalition includes the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center, Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC), Al Muneer Foundation, Fifth Avenue Committee, Bangladeshi American Community Development and Youth Services (BACDYS), Fort Apache Youth Center, Haven Ministries & Masjid Al Aman.

Advocacy Before the NYC Tax Commission

TakeRoot supported the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center, based on the Crotona neighborhood of the Bronx, in re-establishing a charity property tax exemption for a building the Center is developing. The Commission found that the NYC Department of Finance (DOF) had unlawfully revoked a previously established exemption. The Commission was clear that when the DOF attempts to remove exemption, it has the burden of proof to show that revocation is proper.

In this case, the DOF did not meet the burden. The Commission found that the Center had been taking consistent steps towards development of the building, even though a significant period of time had passed since acquisition. The Commission was convinced by the Center’s participation in the Community Land Trust Learning Exchange, by multiple design efforts and by its ongoing capital campaign.

Read the full decision here.


Testimony to City Council Committee on Finance on Bills Aimed at Protecting Charity Organizations (11/19/2019): In support of the #ProtectOurPlaces coalition, TakeRoot testified for reforms in Department of Finance’s administration of the charity property tax exemption that is mandatory under New York State law.

Testimony to City Council Committee on Finance on Tax Lien Sale Bill (1/11/2017): TakeRoot, in collaboration with the New York City Community Land Initiative, called for changes to a bill reauthorizing the City’s tax lien program so that non-profit organizations and community members occupying properties with tax liens may continue to do so, and unused properties may be used in the ways that most benefit the surrounding communities.


New York City Council examines bills aiming to support nonprofits, NY Nonprofit Media | Kay Dervishi | Nov. 20, 2019

Department of Finance creates a taxing nightmare for nonprofits, Daily News | Edward Garcia, Lindsey Johnson, Felix Kuadugah | May 17, 2018

Crotona’s Mary Mitchell Center faces tax lien battle, Bronx Times | Sarah Valenzuela | May 15, 2018

It’s time to stop tax lien sales from snaring New York City’s nonprofits, City & State | Council Member Antonio Reynoso | May 15, 2018

The Council Must Protect Nonprofits from Lien Sales, City Limits | Rev. Richard Hartley | November 9, 2017

New Bill Would Protect Hundreds of NYC Community-Owned Properties, Next City | Oscar Abello | June 26, 2017

Not-for-Profits Facing Tax & Water Liens Get Reprieve from City, City Limits | Jarrett Murphy | June 2, 2017

City delays tax lien sales for houses of worship, other nonprofits, The Real Deal | Will Parker | June 1, 2017

City must stop tax-lien sale or erroneous bills will trigger foreclosures, Crains | Paula Z. Segal | May 9, 2017

Hundreds Of Nonprofits At Risk Of Having Their Tax Debt Sold—Even Though Many Should Likely Be Tax Exempt, Gothamist | Nathan Tempey | May 9, 2017

New York City Must Prevent Nonprofit Properties from Falling to Private Capital, City & State New York | Josh Bisker | May 3, 2017

Tax Trouble for Hundreds of City Non-Profits as Lien Sale Nears, City Limits | Jarrett Murphy | April 14, 2017

Tax Lien Sale Threatens Hundreds of NYC Nonprofits, Next City | Oscar Abello | March 24, 2017

Opinion: City Must Remove Nonprofits from Tax Lien Sale, Gotham Gazette | Richard Semegram | January 6, 2017

For Sale: Nonprofits, Urban Omnibus | D.W. Gibson | November 9, 2016

CityViews: Stop the Tax-Lien Sales That Will Destroy Community Gardens, City Limits | Paula Z. Segal | May 10, 2016