Amsterdam dispute centers on tax status of properties
Buddhists believe deal left parcels exempt
AMSTERDAM A request for taxes and penalties on two properties owned by a Chinese Buddhist organization is causing confusion in the group, which believes an agreement reached with the city of Amsterdam left both parcels with tax-free status.
The city’s lawyer on Tuesday said the tax bills are the product of unfinished business related to hearings in state Supreme Court in June and it’s possible that the Buddhists won’t have to pay these taxes and penalties.
But the tax bills and a citation for doing electrical work without a permit are further straining the city’s relationship with the Buddhists, who came to Amsterdam in 2006 with the goal of teaching a healthful form of yoga.
The Buddhists developed a secondary goal — to revitalize the city of Amsterdam — and bought dozens of run-down properties with plans to fix them up, but that project has them running around in circles.
“There’s so many obstacles laid before us,” World Peace and Health Organization spokeswoman Jennie Wong said. She said she and group members are wondering if the city’s goal is to oust them from 10 Leonard St. and 17 Liberty St. altogether.
The organization filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court earlier this year and left a hearing in June believing that the city had agreed not to tax the religious organization’s two buildings as long as they brought them up to code.
Amsterdam Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis on Tuesday said there’s been a “slight dispute” over the wording of a settlement order agreed upon by both sides. “There’s just some issues of finalizing the order,” he said.
Efforts to reach the Buddhists’ attorney, Paul J. Goldman, were unsuccessful Tuesday.
The consummate do-it-yourself group has run into even more difficulties trying to repair damage done to the 10 Leonard St. building. Copper and the main electrical service were pillaged in 2011 in an unresolved burglary — one of several the group has endured — and the group gathered the media in January to broadcast their plight.
They re-installed an electrical service, and just days before they reached an agreement in court, the city’s code inspector, Thomas McQuade, cited them for doing electrical work without a permit. The group has a November 1 appointment with the Amsterdam City Court to answer the charge.
“I think they don’t want us to be there,” Wong said Tuesday.