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Attack this tax: Troubling signs that de Blasio may not be up for a property tax overhaul after all


From Mayor de Blasio’s City Hall this week came rumblings of weak stomachs, since walked back. Maybe the time won’t be right after all, a deputy mayor suggested, to overhaul the city’s byzantine, often regressive, utterly nonsensical system for levying taxes on property, responsible for producing 32% of the revenue on which a massive $92.8 billion city budget relies.

De Blasio vowed to tackle property tax reform years ago. He and other elected officials understand the status quo is indefensible. He must not lose what little political will he has mustered to date.

The system we have, the result of years of rules and regulations piled precariously atop one another, hurts older black homeowners in Queens and Brooklyn. It undertaxes those who own some of the priciest condos and coops while placing a relatively heavy burden on middle-class Staten Islanders, and hammering renters who make up the bulk of city residents.

Two nearly identical buildings next to one another may have wildly different tax rates. Just because.

After much dithering, last year de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson created a commission to recommend ideas for making the system, “simpler, clearer and fairer,” while also ordered any recommendations be “revenue neutral."

After 15 months of study and 5 public hearings, and one self-imposed deadline already long passed, the proposals are nowhere in sight.

In an ideal world, the commission would produce a bold blueprint, and leave it to de Blasio to champion it up in Albany, where legislators would listen, tweak and act.

In the far from ideal world in which we reside, state lawmakers can no longer count on mayoral leadership. They must focus intently on the rat’s nest of property tax laws and press ahead with an overhaul. Otherwise, tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time.