Stores on East 4th Vulnerable to Cooper Square MHA Tax Hike; Keshav Music Departs to Rutgers Street

Posted on: January 16th, 2014 at 5:44 am by

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Keshav Music was forced to move to Rutgers St.

The music is no longer playing at 67 East Fourth Street. Within the last few weeks, Keshav Music Imports shuttered and relocated way south to 24 Rutgers. A handwritten note directs customers to the new, much larger (900 square-feet) Lower East Side outpost.

There’s a much deeper story here on Fourth Street, though. One that affects the livelihood of many mom-and-pop stores along this stretch. And it’s much ado about Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association and its J-51 tax abatement.

Basically, the buildings are owned and operated by Cooper Square MHA, whose goal is the “preservation and development of tenant-controlled and cooperatively owned affordable housing.” Well, the nonprofit organization got into the business of selling co-ops, so for years, their holdings were not eligible for the J-51 abatement. The Villager clarified the complex situation in early December:

According to the M.H.A.’s executive director, Val Orselli, Cooper Square would not have to pay a $10 million tax demand from the city, going back nearly two decades.

Following lengthy negotiations, a deal was struck and passed by the City Council last year, allowing a retroactive tax abatement for all the M.H.A.’s tenants — both residential and commercial. But there’s a cruel caveat.

Although the “Article 11” settlement lets residents in the 342 low-income units off the hook, the letter announces that, going forward, commercial tenants, who are already feeling the pinch in the economic downturn, will have to pay an additional and substantial property tax, and may have to come up with creative ways in order to meet it.

Keshav Music was the first victim to depart the block, yet might not be the last. The 22-year-old Fragrance Shop and office supplier are also affected by this latest development and in danger of closing.

Owner Keshav Das told us that some of the businesses are being asked to pay an additional $1,200 on top of monthly rent.

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