Pulse: Chatter: Tax On, Tax Off

A billing battle over Center City real estate

Attorney George Bochetto fires the first salvo: “Nobody anointed Paul Levy as king so that he can do damn well what he pleases for as long as he wants.” Bochetto is accusing the Center City District head of arbitrarily raising the cost of living in the city; he’s filed a lawsuit, now simmering in federal court, against the CCD, the semi-private association that was mandated by City Council back in 1990 to buff and shine downtown. Levy has run CCD since its inception.

In 2005, in the wake of the condo boom, CCD mandated that every future district homeowner had to pay an annual assessment; before that, homeowners had been able to opt out of the assessments, no questions asked, and those who bought before ’05 still can. That’s what has Bochetto, and lead plaintiff Russell Nigro, fuming.
Nigro, a former state Supreme Court justice, bought a condo at 210 West Washington Square in ’09 for $1,350,000; his first annual CCD assessment was $1,176.36. “There’s a lot of disparity and inequity in the application of the tax,” Nigro says. “I think it’s all bullshit.”

The option of not paying the assessment, says Levy, came about back in ’91, when older residents of Academy House—then the only condo in the district—-complained; all the opt-out required was a signature on a form. (Nigro and -Bochetto, who both owned units in the Academy House in the ’90s, elected not to pay.)

Anyway, the real problem with CCD assessments, Levy maintains, is figuring out how much to bill condos, given “the total failure of the Board of Revision of Taxes to uniformly assess condo development the last five years, even comparable units within buildings.” The BRT is a board, he points out, “on which Russell Nigro sits.”