Liberating Data from NYC Property Tax Bills

Property Tax constitutes the single biggest source of revenue for the New York City Government, accounting for approximately $22.5 Billion dollars in the Modified FY2016 Budget. That’s a lot of money, and I’ve always been curious about how properties are assessed, how exemptions and abatements are applied, and what the overall property tax contribution is of a neighborhood, a block, or any other chunk of the city.

As it turns out, everything about property taxes is public record, but there isn’t really any quality bulk data around about it in NYC. Some aspects of property taxes show their face in PLUTO, including assessed value and abatement, but I learned a few years ago that that’s only part of the story, and you can’t infer from PLUTO how much a property actually pays in taxes. For that information, you have to look at the bills, which are also public record.

The NYC Department of Finance has an online tax bill lookup tool, where you can search for any property by BBL (Borough, Block, and Lot Numbers) or Address. Every statement and bill is available, going back for several years.

Let’s take a look at the bill for 1 Centre Street, a building owned by the city government. The bill for June 2015 is available as a PDF from this URL:

If you scroll down to the 2nd page, you’ll see a nicely formatted section called Annual Property Tax Detail, and here is where you’ll find all of the goodies, including “the bottom line”, or how much that property owes the city for a given tax cycle.


You can see from the bill that if this building were not city-owned, its owner would have to fork over $7.4 Million a year.  You can also see that this figure is based on the Billable Assessed Value of $69.8M times the tax rate of 10.6840% for commercial properties.  The math is clear, but the source of the Billable Assessed value and the Estimated Market Value are not… but that’s another blog post. (It’s a dissertation, really… Here’s a great article from City&State that talks about several administrations’ failed attempts to reform the property tax system, and how two comparable properties can pay very different taxes based on how fast their neighborhoods appreciated in value. The most interesting tidbit is that renters are shouldering more property tax burden than homeowners, because of the way apartment buildings are taxed.)

Here’s another bill that shows exemptions AND abatements together, saving this owner over $5,000 due to School Tax Relief (STAR) exemption and the Co-op/Condo Abatement:Cursor_and_Jul2015 2

Back in 2013, I put together a little project to extract these nuggets of data, as I wanted to make a simple web map that would allow you to explore property taxes.  To accomplish this, we wrote a series of scripts to download thousands of tax bills and scrape the text out of them. The text was then parsed, resulting in machine-readable data for each property we had a bill for. We ended up pulling out most of the data for Manhattan (condos excluded), and the rudimentary map is still up today at (this hasn’t been updated since, and won’t be)  It was always my intention to expand it to the rest of the city, and to share the bulk data, but like so many civic hacking projects, it never happened.


Last year, NYC Civic Hacker John Krauss located another gold mine of data in the tax bills, specifically the number of rent stabilized units in an apartment building.  Activists and renter’s rights groups had been in search of authoritative data on rent stabilized units, and John figured out that he could get high quality data at the building level by scraping every bill for apartment buildings with over 6 units.  He found that surcharges for rent stabilization revealed a massive concentration of stabilized apartment loss in certain neighborhoods.  Read his blog post about the rent stabilization data here, and check out the raw tax bills and data at There’s also a great article at ProPublica about the rent stabilization failure-to-report-but-still-getting-the-tax-break situation.

Ben Wellington (iQuantNY) has also done an analysis of the rent stabilization data that was liberated from the tax bills, showing the net change over time among other things. Read it here.

We teamed up to expand to include every BBL in the city, condominiums included, with a goal of assembling high-quality granular data including every exemption and abatement in the city. We used MapPLUTO 15v1 as our master list of BBLs, and the DOF assessment rolls to get an exhaustive list of condo BBLs and to join the condo units to their physical tax lot.

Here’s the Data

The data exist in two tables, one with a row for each BBL in the city, containing estimated market value, tax rate, total tax due, etc, and the other containing a row for each individual exemption and abatement found in the bills.  There is a one-to-many relationship between these tables, as many exemptions and abatements can be associated with a single BBL. – 1.1 Million Rows

address – street address, collected from the bill
bbl – 10-digit Borough, Block, and Lot ID
ownername – owner name, pulled from the bill
condo – ‘lot’ for condo lot BBLs, ‘unit’ for condo unit BBLs, empty for all others
condonumber – corresponding condominium number for condo lot or unit
taxclass – the tax class of the property
taxrate – the tax rate associated with the tax class
emv – estimated market value
bav – billable assessed value
tbea – tax before exemptions and abatements (bav x taxrate)
tba – tax before abatements
propertytax – total tax due (the bottom line)

june15exab.csv – 750K rows

bbl – 10-digit Borough, Block, & Lot ID that this exemption or abatement is associated with
type – ‘exemption’ or ‘abatement’
detail – text of the exemption or abatement pulled from the bill
amount – dollar amount of the exemption or abatement

These two tables were derived from the very large rawdata.csv on  You can see the exact SQL queries and some other aspects of our methodology on the notes page.

A Few Good Queries

According to the data, the total tax before exemptions and abatements is $34.5 Billion.  This is, in theory, the amount the city could collect if there were no exemptions and abatements. I’d love to see what this number would be if real market values were taken into account citywide.

The total tax due (the sum of all of the bottom lines in the bills) is $21.6 Billion, meaning the total amount of tax exemptions and abatements is $12.9 Billion.   Of course, many of the exemptions are simply due to the land being owned by a government agency (does it make sense for a city government to pay itself tax? Should cities charge property tax to federal government-owned land in their jurisdictions?)

Let’s take a high-level look at the exemptions and abatements.

There are 147 unique exemption types. There are 42 exemption types with 10 or fewer occurrences. There are 7 with only 1 occurrence: indust waste facility, prof. maj lea sports, nys med care fac fin, patrol salvage, solar/wind energy, state retire system, ltd profit hsng co:l (Someone map these please! Ok, I’ll do it myself, give me a few days)

You can see the full list of all 147 exemptions along with a sum ($) and count column in the table below.  I’ll keep my opinions to myself for now and just show you the data.

detail sum count
park $-1,235,613,825 4242
dept. of education $-962,818,626 1276
port auth-air termin $-913,424,673 39
fed govt land bldgs $-566,423,433 121
icip $-512,009,171 6427
house of worship $-476,243,408 5829
nyc housing auth $-427,602,366 1121
hospital $-423,899,214 478
421a (20 yr not cap $-334,361,000 291
dept real est (dcas) $-326,204,300 2317
college-university $-306,038,884 298
421a (15 yr not cap) $-279,189,007 33571
nyc industrial dev $-254,687,155 392
421a (25 yr not cap $-252,078,327 19785
battery park auth $-238,561,043 3076
new mult dwellings – 421a $-225,805,259 15956
nys urban dev (esdc) $-223,169,276 265
dormitory authority $-196,179,285 156
state lands bldgs $-188,206,157 702
health & hospitals c $-187,499,525 53
dept small bus svcs $-185,986,785 189
j-51 alteration $-176,986,092 22283
edc – pilot $-154,825,087 62
port auth-world trad $-144,282,806 4
bd higher ed (cuny) $-144,110,833 121
420c housing $-137,270,998 1487
religious-school $-136,316,447 625
basic star – school tax relief $-131,481,459 321063
charitable $-122,001,696 1369
senior citizens homeowners‰Ûª exemption $-118,970,134 44436
school-elem,hs,acad $-97,272,864 278
mta-nyc transit $-82,620,953 237
dept pub work (dep) $-76,593,333 856
post office $-76,529,620 123
roosevelt island $-70,090,358 588
cemetery (private) $-69,699,532 191
student dormitory $-62,707,580 209
enhanced star – school tax relief $-62,542,225 82913
dept of correction $-60,485,450 7
hospital staff hsg $-60,265,761 403
faculty student hsg $-54,279,562 348
dept of sanitation $-53,215,234 133
public museum $-50,161,235 25
house pres devl adm $-49,520,011 1516
spec init pgm (sip) $-49,093,441 774
public library $-46,087,925 191
dept of traffic $-43,088,377 520
nyc educ const fund $-41,645,783 26
421a (15 yr cap) $-40,592,345 3546
prof. maj lea sports $-40,234,090 1
nfp-contemplated use $-37,451,904 298
fed hospital $-37,039,566 5
police dept $-36,494,205 198
dept of soc svc (hra $-36,451,518 110
foreign mission $-36,108,239 185
united nations $-35,967,692 10
nursing home $-35,626,822 76
mental-moral improve $-35,484,703 289
resid-conv. low manh $-29,054,091 2555
museum $-28,863,040 59
div of alt mgmt prog $-28,557,598 1003
cooper union $-28,356,603 4
chartble philan $-27,435,310 221
opera house $-26,254,281 4
school construc auth $-26,065,448 45
state aided pub hsg $-25,844,064 25
nyc hous auth-duplic $-25,801,287 99
perf arts bldg $-25,471,471 11
armed forces $-24,736,209 5
health center $-24,220,909 117
state hospital $-23,834,609 31
urban dev. act proj. $-23,677,638 9156
urban renewal $-21,201,190 120
dept water resources $-19,665,961 191
port auth-bus facilt $-19,318,732 5
charitable housing $-19,306,166 356
parsonage $-19,213,798 1059
fire dept $-18,638,363 258
benevolent $-18,069,075 144
port auth-indust dev $-16,820,008 50
state public works $-16,785,619 117
veteran exemption $-15,836,961 32132
st assisted priv hsg $-15,079,766 18
trust for cult rsrce $-14,637,483 250
ida – pilot $-13,208,444 48
foreign consulate $-13,102,555 102
academy of music $-12,826,211 9
police fire $-12,256,973 12
un development corp $-12,161,474 6
religious-dormitory $-11,549,266 52
mta – bridge&tunnel $-11,522,684 54
disabled homeowner $-11,221,103 4866
mta-lirr/metro north $-11,137,726 66
state retire system $-9,863,649 1
dept of health $-9,684,507 42
mitchell-lama (srt) $-9,301,681 81
military $-8,269,903 7
hsg dev fund co (srt $-7,919,965 30
dwelling from fed $-7,253,378 25
salvation army $-6,095,291 41
veteran portion fully exempt $-5,557,900 10708
veteran portion partially exempt $-5,470,235 10708
foreign embassies $-5,459,566 49
port auth-bridge/tun $-4,552,957 39
non-profit med dent $-3,849,513 3
dept of highways $-3,013,486 37
421a (10 yr cap) $-2,972,734 302
foreign staff hsing $-2,767,134 85
literary $-2,648,013 9
armory $-2,520,941 6
fraternal organiz $-2,236,242 5
redevelopment (srt) $-2,156,074 16
nys hous fin agency $-2,005,203 194
hip center $-1,898,830 10
nyc econ dev corp $-1,688,007 8
library $-1,589,163 13
historical $-1,463,651 21
421b (1-2 family) $-1,276,105 1384
religious missions $-1,085,091 29
a.l.,vfw,cwv,jwv,etc $-1,058,591 65
inst of arts sci $-895,239 5
theatrical corp $-839,432 9
public playground $-612,755 4
scientific $-539,996 9
borough president $-474,973 9
ltd profit hsng co:l $-423,894 1
clergy $-382,094 1331
cemetery (federal $-265,304 2
enf/law/child/animal $-259,496 3
bible $-245,976 2
vol. fire co. $-228,916 13
memorial assn $-211,529 6
amtrak (fed subsi rr $-151,217 3
ny state power auth $-137,642 3
limited div (srt) $-97,860 3
supvd. sportsmanship $-67,238 2
patrol salvage $-60,998 1
nys med care fac fin $-45,953 1
ser disabled veteran $-24,351 4
crime victims $-21,381 6
solar/wind energy $-12,379 1
indust waste facil $-10,150 1
lighthouse $-9,646 3
environ prot ex $-8,441 2
port auth – invalid $-910 3
fallout shelter $-153 2
veteran exemption total $126,567,562 10708

Something wonky is going on with that last line “veterans exemption total”.  If anyone figures it out, please let me know.

Now the abatements, of which there are 9 distinct types:

detail sum count
co-op/condo abatement $-419,578,051 41111
j51 abatement $-85,370,163 33884
residential conversion abatement $-39,932,014 2564
industrial & commercial abate prog $-28,433,537 429
lease abatement $-17,322,212 218
brooklyn bridge park pilot $-4,896,130 600
solar elec generating system abate $-4,643,480 2179
mitchell lama star benefit $-4,550,181 135
icip abatement $-1,180,589 84


By joining the data with MapPLUTO in CartoDB, we can visualize the tax footprint of the entire city. (Once joined, you can also use the rich lot-level data in PLUTO to analyze property taxes based on zoning, land use, etc)  I have colored lots with zero tax due as pink, but bear in mind that it’s often not so simple and things like Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs) are not reflected in the tax bills. Condo units are outlined in yellow.

So there you have it… we turned 1.1 million pdfs into a high quality open dataset on NYC property taxes, including all exemptions and abatements.  Data scientists everywhere, go forth and crunch the numbers, and please share your findings on twitter with me (@chris_whong), John Krauss (@recessionporn) and Ben Wellington (@iquantny).  We can’t wait to see what you come up with!

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