In today's NYT, there is an article about the building on the southwest corner of 72nd and Madison in NYC. Twice in the article and once in the caption to the photos, the building is referred to as a "taxpayer" or "taxpayer-style building."
The article describes the 2 buildings which have occupied the 48' by 100' lot on the sw corner of 72nd and Madison: the first was a 5-story mansion built in 1894, which was occupied by an ex-wife of William K. Vanderbilt II. On the northwest corner stood Louis Tiffany's grand house, and Gertrude Rhinelander was building her chateau, now the Ralph Lauren store, on the southeast corner. The mansion remained a private home until 1951, when it was
... replaced with a two-story-high taxpayer-style building, designed by Boak & Raad with severe simplicity.
Ralph Lauren acquired the old Rhinelander mansion for its flagship store in 1986, and seven years later took over the taxpayer on the site of the Cutting house. It has operated a store there since then.
So what is a "taxpayer-style building?"
It is a building -- old or new -- which is an underuse of a prime lot. It is a placeholder, a way for the landlord to collect some rent from a tenant for as many years as he wants to sit and wait for the site to "ripen" so that he can sell it at a windfall price.
A taxpayer is a single-story building in a 5-story neighborhood. It collects enough rent from the tenant to pay the relatively low taxes which are placed on it, because the assessor takes pity on the poor landlord (who certainly is not poor -- he has a very valuable, very scarce and appreciating asset in the well-located piece of land) and places an assessment on the property based on the income which it is bringing in with its one- or two-story building on it.
Parking lots can be "taxpayers" too. Placeholders. See www.commongroundnyc.org
"Tax-payers" are generally owned by speculators.
We can speed up the redevelopment of sites occupied by taxpayers by tweaking our existing property tax: lower the taxes on the building, and increase the taxes on the land value.
So this prime urban site is going to be developed for only the third time in 115 years. I wonder how long the intended 4-story retail operation will be the highest and best use of the site -- and whether it is currently the highest and best use. How much housing could be built over that site?