Does the Indian government owe big bucks real estate taxes and accrued interest to New York City, since 1985? Lawyers for the City claim that India owes more than $16 million in back taxes because it uses its property located at 235 East 43rd Street as housing for persons other than the head of the Permanent Mission to the UN, or its consular staff. In other words, because India’s Permanent Mission uses its private, official quarters to sleep out-of-town guests, the City of New York thinks India owes it a large chunk of money, for showing traditional hospitality to its own visiting citizens and friends.
Cash-strapped New York City is scrounging around wherever it can to raise monies to buttress its budget which took a heavy hit after 9/11. And the situation has worsened because the Bush government has paid only a fraction of all the funds that it promised to New York City in the aftermath of the WTC disaster. Similarly, New York State has also stalled on its fiscal promises to the city. So NYC Mayor Bloomberg and his staff have been trying to find ways to put money into the city coffers.
India is among four UN member states that have been named by the City of New York in lawsuits filed in Manhattan Supreme Court this week. The lawsuit against India alleges that the permanent mission located at 235 East 43rd Street, engaged in a “year-by-year failure to pay real estate taxes and other charges from 1985 to the present.” The press release goes on to state “Because the property in question was used for living quarters for other than the head of the mission or the consular post, it was subject to tax.” The lawsuit, according to the press release, alleges that India failed to pay $4,876,542.20 in taxes and charges, and $11,500,159.89 in statutory interest, for a total of $16,376,702.09. The other three member UN states named in the individual lawsuits are Turkey, Philippines and Mongolia. The countries are claimed to owe approximately $70 million, $17 million and $2.1 million respectively.
One city official claimed in the press release that the US Department of State was less than cooperative in helping resolve the problem. “We would have preferred to resolve these issues without litigation. Unfortunately, the U.S. State Department, which worked with us in resolving the City’s diplomatic and consular parking problems, has inexplicably declined (my emphasis) to assist us to collect the real estate taxes due the City in these cases. We certainly hope the State Department will help us to resolve these problems in the future, but given the present situation, the City must take all necessary steps to preserve its legal rights.”
Perhaps the folks at the State Department thought the City did not have a leg to stand on, so they decided not to cooperate with the City’s Department of Finance, The NYC Law Department, or its Office for The United Nations, Consular Corps and Protocol. Or maybe the State Department thought the City should quit acting like a profit-hungry landlord and find other ways of raising revenues, than by harassing foreign governments, on the question of who is sleeping in their official residences. Or maybe the State Department has enough on its plate, what with all that opposition at the UN, and in the city’s streets, against the war in Iraq.
See India vs. New York in court!
More details will follow as the story unfolds……