By Elizabeth Kim
News of hedge fund tycoon Ken Griffin’s record-breaking purchase last week of a $238 million penthouse prompted what has by now become a routine series of responses to the city's sky-high real estate transactions: sticker shock and bewilderment, followed by "Who is this guy?", followed by "He ain't all that."
But for New Yorkers, an especially sore point of Griffin’s purchase is that, like many of the city’s luxury real estate buys, his ultra-exclusive four-story pad at 220 Central Park South will likely not be a primary residence, meaning that the hedge fund billionaire and serial real estate collector will not be subject to local income tax. In some cases, because of a controversial tax abatement program, some owners of luxury apartments in New York City even manage to pay less in property taxes than their neighbors.
Amid the outrage, at least two members of the City Council, including council speaker and possible mayoral candidate Corey Johnson, have renewed calls for a pied-à-terre tax on luxury homeowners, though they haven't yet provided details.
Councilman Mark Levine, who represents the Upper West Side and Washington Heights, said that while New Yorkers have grown increasingly accustomed to "grotesque" property transactions by the uber-rich, last week's record-setting figure — which made Griffin the owner of the most expensive residential property ever bought in the United States — struck a nerve.
"I think something snapped in a lot of people," he said. "It has changed the debate in a way that has to be addressed. People are simply not comfortable with this kind of extreme wealth moving into our cities without it benefiting the people that live here."