Brookfield Office Properties has unexpectedly found itself on New York City’s list of deadbeat taxpayers, a revelation that comes weeks after the city’s police force spent millions policing one of its prime Manhattan properties that was the site of the Occupy Wall Street protests.
The company’s name was on a list compiled by the New York Daily News, which showed that some 40,000 companies owed the city’s finance department about $149-million in overdue taxes. The city confirmed the numbers cited by the paper are accurate.
Brookfield is down for about $139,000, although the company believes its payments are up-to-date. The company, which has its roots in Canada, owns Zuccotti Park, a Lower Manhattan green space in the heart of the financial district.
“We believe that we have paid all taxes due to the City of New York,” the company confirmed in an e-mailed statement Monday. “We are in discussion with the City’s Dept of Finance and we anticipate that this error will be resolved very shortly with Brookfield owing no additional funds.”
While the Occupy Wall Street protesters camped on its site, the company remained largely silent as it allowed the police to determine how to handle the mass of campers living in the space. But the company became increasingly concerned about sanitary conditions in the park, and the city’s police force swooped in mid-November to clear about 200 protesters from the site.
“Brookfield appreciates the peaceful and professional response of the NYPD, the FDNY, and the Department of Sanitation, and thanks Mayor Bloomberg for his leadership,” the company said in a mid-November statement.
“As had been widely reported, conditions in Zuccotti Park had become dangerous, unhealthy and unsafe. In our view, these risks were unacceptable and it would have been irresponsible to not request that the City take action.”
The company is the largest corporate landlord in Lower Manhattan with seven towers and 12.8-million square feet of office space. It owns another four towers, with another 6.2 million square feet of space, in midtown Manhattan.
Sources said that during the time period examined by the newspaper – 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 – the company paid about $3-million in property tax into city coffers.
The list published by the paper includes “the Philadelphia Eagles, the WNBA, Heineken USA, Comcast Sports, the company that built the Trump International Building on Central Park West, the Binder and Binder law firm, the OTR Media billboard company, former City Council President Andrew Stein and the Rev. Al Sharpton.”
Most of the companies have said they don’t actually owe the money, and are checking back with the city to find out why they are listed as debtors. The city still expects payment, however.
“We fully expect companies to pay any debt owed to the city and we aggressively pursue those that do not,” city Finance Commissioner David Frankel told the paper.