• Miscellaneous

Section 581

Data-driven model, drawing, and spatial analysis produced for the Sharing Models: Manhattanisms exhibit at the Storefront for Art and Architecture.

SITU’s drawing highlights 50 of the most expensive luxury co-op or condos in a selected area of Manhattan.

SITU’s contribution to an exhibit at the Storefront for Art and Architecture investigated inequalities incurred by New York State and City property tax code. Titled, Sharing Models: Manhattanisms, the show at Storefront exhibited 30 models and drawings by 30 international architects that represented various ways of reading, understanding, and analyzing the collective assets of urban life. For the exhibition that opened on July 14, 2016, Storefront divided Manhattan into 30 section cuts across the city from the East River to the Hudson River, and assigned each to a participating studio. Containing significant residential sections of the Upper East and West Sides centered around Central Park, SITU’s assigned section for the exhibition is bounded by East 79th street to the north and West 62nd to the South. In response to the exhibition’s call to explore the effect of emerging sharing economies on the lived experience of cities, SITU set out to render visible the disparities in property tax code and the loss of shared city revenue through New York’s luxury co-op and condominium market.


In SITU’s study section of Manhattan, the highest disparities are concentrated along Central Park West and along Park Avenue, where some of the most expensive apartments in the entire city are located (highlighted in green).

SITU’s project, titled “Section 581”, borrows its name from the component of New York state property tax law that sets the assessment practices for Tax Class 2 residential buildings (coops and condos) in New York City. Property taxes on condos and co-ops in New York City are calculated based on an assessment of the property’s value conducted by the Department of Finance (DOF) and are not based on the sales price. In accordance with this law, co-op buildings and condo buildings with at least four units are valued by the DOF as if they were rental properties. These owner-occupied units are some of the most expensive in the city, yet they are compared to rental units across variables such as location, date of construction, and building size to determine their market value.


Read more about the project and about SITU’s findings here: http://www.situstudio.com/blog/2016/07/18/section-581/

Detail of the drawing focusing on Tax Class 2 luxury sales along Central Park West.

We set out to explore this in greater detail through both physicalizing the relationship between sales prices and assessed values in our model and creating a drawing that unpacks selections of the underlying data. It identifies the 50 most expensive of the 11,000 undervalued unit sales in our section and compares their respective sale prices to the values used for property tax assessment. This study represents a small fraction of the lost property tax revenue that could be captured across the entire city. As a general trend, the more expensive the sales price, the more extreme the disparity, in some cases numbering in the tens of millions of dollars for a single unit alone.

The height of the acrylic surface above each building represents the relative magnitude of difference between sales price and assessed value.

The model physicalizes NYC Department of Finance data.

Detail of SITU’s model for the project.

In the model, the height of the acrylic surface above a coop or condominium building represents the relative magnitude of difference between sales price and assessment value. It seeks to present a skewed reality wrought by Section 581 that is difficult to see: a real estate market that has benefited an elite class of New York home owners and disproportionately burdened the less wealthy with the funding of public life and works in the city.