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In re Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Supreme Court, Westchester County

November 29, 2010

In the Matter of Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Petitioner,
v.
The Assessor of the City of Mount Vernon and the City of Mount Vernon, Respondents.

William E. Sulzer, Esq., Griffin, Coogan, Blose & Sulzer, PC, Attorneys for Petitioner

Loretta J. Hottinger, Esq., Corporation Counsel, Attorney for Respondents

HON. JOHN R. LA CAVA, J.S.C.

In this Real Property Tax Law (RPTL) Article 4/Article 7, and CPLR Article 78, proceeding, challenging the denial by the City of Mount Vernon (City) of the real property tax exemption sought by petitioner Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) for the Tax Years 2009 and 2010, for the premises designated on the City tax map as Section 164.68, Block 1058, Lots 2.2 and 3, and known as and located at 10 and 22 Macquesten Parkway, Mount Vernon, New York (the subject premises), the following papers numbered 1 to 4 were considered in connection with the motion by petitioner in this matter for judgment:

PAPERS NUMBERED

ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE/PETITION/EXHIBITS 1

AFFIRMATION IN SUPPORT/EXHIBITS 2

AFFIRMATION IN OPPOSITION 3

REPLY AFFIRMATION 4

Petitioner MTA is a public benefit corporation and public authority pursuant to Public Authorities Law Article 5, with principal offices located at 347 Madison Avenue, New York, NY. In 2006, MTA entered into a lease with the owner of the subject premises, OTR Properties (OTR), for the purpose of providing a MTA Police Department station in furtherance of its commuter railroad business. On August 4, 2009, MTA requested that the City grant an exemption for the subject premises pursuant to Public Authorities Law § 1275. In September of that year, the City Comptroller responded simply that OTR, the owner of the premises, was not a tax exempt entity. MTA then corresponded with the City Corporation Counsel who directed the MTA to contact the City Assessor. The latter informed the MTA in November 2009 that grant of the exemption was in his discretion, and that he was consulting an expert on the MTA's request. No City agency or officer has since contacted the MTA regarding the August request for an exemption; upon issuance of the next 2009 tax bill, the instant actions then ensued [1].

Petitioner now moves for judgment, arguing that the City has erroneously denied the application. Petitioner notes the lease of the property by the MTA from OTR for exclusive use as a police station, which station is a use for the service of its railroad passengers. The City argues in opposition to the Article 78 action that this action is time-barred, as commenced more than four months following notice of the City's determination, which determination was the letter regarding OTR's non-exempt status. MTA replies that this letter was no determination on the merits of the exemption application, since the Corporation Counsel referred the MTA to the Assessor, who took the application under advisement pending consultation with an expert. No determination, in fact, was ever received from the City at all, with the exception of publication of the 2009 tax bill in early 2010; MTA asserts it instituted the Article 78 action in a timely manner following receipt of the tax bill.

The City's Defense of Untimeliness

MTA properly argues that it received no final determination on the merits of its application for an exemption from the City prior to the issuance of tax bills in 2010. The letter cited by the City in asserting earlier notice, simply ignored the basics of MTA's application--that, as a Public Authority, it is entitled to an exemption for leased property devoted to Authority business (here, a police station.) The letter, curiously, merely acknowledged ownership by OTR, an entity not entitled to an exemption, without addressing at all the tax exempt nature of leased premises under Public Authorities Law § 1275 (as set forth in greater detail below.) The time within which to commence an action pursuant to CPLR Article 78 begins to run when the determination by the municipality became final (see New Jersey Transit Rail Operations v. County of Rockland, 187 A.D.2d 430 [2nd ...


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