The Real Deal New York

This month in Real Estate History: ‘Cuomo tax’ made law in 1983; Hitler, Stalin named as owners in 1940 Brooklyn foreclosure and more

A look back at some of New York City's biggest real estate stories
By Adam Pincus | March 01, 2014 07:00AM

1983: Unpopular “Cuomo tax” on capital gains becomes law

Gov. Mario Cuomo

Gov. Mario Cuomo

Gov. Mario Cuomo signed legislation enacting a new 10 percent tax on capital gains from the sale of real estate worth $1 million or more 31 years ago this month.

The tax, a revised attempt at collecting fees from large property sales after a similar 1981 law was repealed the following year, was expected to bring the state about $100 million annually.

Known as the “Cuomo tax,” the levy was imposed on the difference between the purchase price and the purchase price plus capital expenses put into the property. It was a major revenue source for the state during the decade’s real estate boom, bringing in $792 million at its peak in 1987. But it became increasingly unpopular with the early 1990s recession.

The real estate industry criticized the tax from the beginning, in part because it did not take into consideration soft costs like broker commissions or marketing expenses that eat into an owner’s profit.

Gov. George Pataki signed the law’s repeal in July 1996.

1940: Hitler, Stalin named in Brooklyn foreclosure

Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler of Germany and Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union were included as defendants in a foreclosure lawsuit brought by Dime Savings Bank in Brooklyn State Supreme Court, 74 years ago this month.

The bank identified the dictators as owners of the four-story rental building 541 Clinton Street in Carroll Gardens because the former owners, Martin Auslander and Julius Freilocher, transferred title to Hitler and Stalin two months earlier in an effort to embarrass the bank, the New York Times reported that year.

The stunt made foreclosure more difficult for Dime, because the court required a lender to prove it had served all the owners by mail at their “home addresses” and by publication. The estimated cost to place overseas ads at the time was $225, and added nine weeks to the proceedings.

The six-unit building, built in 1900, had a $3,300 mortgage.

The bank said it would send foreclosure papers to Hitler at his Bavarian Alps residence at Berchtesgaden, and to Stalin at the Kremlin in Moscow. The embassies of both Germany and the Soviet Union also told the bank they had no knowledge of owning a Brooklyn property.

Following the nine-week process, Dime purchased the building back in a June auction for a bid of $1,000. It still stands, and city records show the De Gennaro family has owned it since the 1970s.

1907: Columbia “Upper Estate” takes commercial turn

Fifth Avenue between 48th and 49th streets

Fifth Avenue between 48th and 49th streets

Following the slow progression uptown of Manhattan’s business districts, the first reports emerged that Columbia University trustees had decided to allow commercial uses within a large tract of land filled with residential buildings in Midtown 107 years ago this month.

In 1814, the state granted the school most of the land between 48th and 51st streets and Fifth and Sixth avenues, known as the Upper Estate. It leased lots on which homes were constructed.

The area at the time was largely residential, with commercial activity concentrated on 42nd and 59th streets. Among the area’s high-profile residents were the Vanderbilt family, who owned several mansions, including at 1 West 57th Street and 660 Fifth Avenue.

In a first hint of change, Columbia, in the month prior, inked several leases along Fifth Avenue between 50th and 51st streets that for the first time included provisions allowing the tenants to sublet to a commercial user.

However, no comprehensive redevelopment of the estate was undertaken until John D. Rockefeller signed an 87-year lease on Jan. 22, 1929 with the school, paying an average of $3 million per year in rent. Over several years, he redeveloped the area into Rockefeller Center.

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