GATEWAY PERSPECTIVES: Teamwork Key to Victory

Richard Haggerty | June 2016

Richard Haggerty, HGAR CEO
Richard Haggerty, HGAR CEO

Approximately six weeks ago I received a phone call from HGAR Government Affairs Director Phil Weiden, who alerted me that the proposed budget for the City of Yonkers included an increase in its local transfer tax from 1.5% to 3%. Such an increase would have added an additional $7,000 of closing costs on a transaction of $500,000, the median sales price in Yonkers. I was at the airport in Philadelphia about to board a plane to Portugal when I received the phone call. I asked Phil to craft a letter that we could send to the Mayor and the City Council Members expressing our deep concerns about the impact such an increase would have on the City of Yonkers.

While at the airport I also reached out to our HGAR COO Ann Garti, our HGAR President Marcene Hedayati,  and Association and MLS Past President and Yonkers resident Leah Caro, and asked them to spread the word throughout the Realtor community in Yonkers about the proposal. Before I boarded the plane we had a plan of action in place and we were ready to mobilize opposition to the increase in the transfer tax.

By the time I returned from Portugal, Phil had set up meetings with the majority of the City Council members as well as with Mike Spano, mayor of Yonkers. Our individual meetings with the Mayor and the Council Members were respectful and productive. They had all received our letter expressing our deep reservations about the proposed increase in the transfer tax in advance of the meetings. The elected officials didn’t make any promises, but they listened to our points attentively and asked thoughtful questions, and we very much appreciated the fact that they were willing to engage with us on this issue.

City officials were also candid in sharing the budget challenges that confront Yonkers. However, we expressed our belief that an increase in the transfer tax would not only fail to impact any budget shortfall in a meaningful way, it would have a significant dampening negative effect on the real estate market which would, in turn, negatively impact the local economy as a whole.

We also reached out to the New York State Association of Realtors to strategize about how to defeat the proposal and NYSAR Government Affairs Director Mike Kelly and his team could not have been more helpful. Jared Burns, NYSAR’s Legislative and Political Affairs Coordinator, set up two “Call to Action” alerts for HGAR members who are residents of Yonkers. Subsequently, city officials let us know that e-mails and phone calls opposing the increase were pouring in.

As I write this column we have just learned that the City Council has reached a budget agreement that provides for no increase in the transfer tax, and it’s our hope that the mayor will accept this budget. At press time it is believed that Mayor Spano will not veto the approved $1.12-billion 2016-2017 Yonkers City budget.

This is a huge win for HGAR and we think is great news for all Yonkers property owners. I believe that the proactive efforts of HGAR arguing against the increase in the transfer tax played a vital role in removing the proposal from the final budget. We worked as a team on a number of fronts to get the word out and to positively engage city officials. We also received very favorable press coverage supporting our position.

These victories do not come without strong Realtor support and we appreciate every HGAR member who responded to our “Call to Action.” I want to express my personal appreciation for the efforts of Phil Weiden and Leah Caro who really led the charge on this issue. This type of political advocacy does not happen in a vacuum—it succeeds because of teamwork, but also with support of the Realtor’s Political Action Committee. We have a number of RPAC events occurring this summer, which are listed below my article. Please understand that your support for RPAC helps to make these types of victories possible.

Upcoming RPAC Events

Richard Haggerty
HGAR CEO