Discriminatory Property Tax Case Dismissed

Image Credit: nyc.gov

Image Credit: nyc.gov

Tenant alleged that the City’s allocation of the property tax burden violated due process and equal protection. Ernest Robinson sought declaratory and injunctive relief alleging that the City’s property tax classification system created a disparate and adverse impact on African-American and Hispanic residents, deprived them of due process and equal protection of the laws, and violated the Fair Housing Act. Robinson alleged that the Class Two tax burden, heavily made up of rental multiple dwellings, was borne primarily by minority tenants, and that approximately 30 percent of a tenant’s rental payment was attributable to the landlord’s property tax.

The Supreme Court of New York County dismissed the case, ruling that Robinson lacked standing to sue. Justice Frank Nervo found that Robinson failed to show he suffered an actual harm. Robinson did not show that the tax plan had a disparate impact based on race or ethnicity, nor did he show that white tenants were subject to a different tax treatment. The allegation that 30 percent of a tenant’s rent went to property tax was speculative and not established by any evidence.

The First Department affirmed the decision, dismissing the complaint. The Court ruled that a statistical imbalance without a showing of similarly situated tenants receiving different treatment or forced segregation was not enough to establish a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

Robinson v. City of New York, 2016 NY Slip Op 07083 (1st Dep’t Oct. 27, 2016) (Attorneys: Peter Safirstein, for Robinson; Zachary W. Carter, Jeremy W. Shweder, for the City; Eric T. Schneiderman, Seth Rokosky, for the State).

By: Jonathon Sizemore (Jonathon is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2016).

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