The United Federation of Teachers has cashed in on millions of dollars in sweetheart tax abatements on properties it owns in New York City, all while the union advocates for higher property taxes for everybody else.
The powerful union has secured more than $17 million in savings from property-tax abatements and other credits on its two Financial District buildings, an analysis of public records by The Post shows.
These have included multiple Industrial & Commercial Incentive Program breaks, lease abatements from the city, commercial expansion tax credits and more.
In 2002 the UFT sold off its longtime headquarters on Park Avenue South and purchased a 340,000-square-foot building at 50 Broadway.
It additionally “net leased” a 400,000-square-foot space at 52 Broadway — which left them on the hook for the site’s property taxes.
The UFT has secured no fewer than 129 separate tax breaks and refunds from the city Department of Finance since 2009.
In some cases the savings were as small as $1,252.92 for a commercial expansion credit in February 2020 and as large as a jumbo ICIP $689,568 deduction in August 2009.
The city Department of Finance’s publicly available online records only go back to 2009, suggesting the sum of all tax breaks is significantly higher.
The years of sweetheart treatment fly in the face of UFT honchos who have long argued that property taxes in the five boroughs should be higher — so that teachers can be paid more.
“Instead of asking the wealthiest to help fund the public services we deserve, the state budget has been kept on a starvation diet since the last recession due to the self-imposed 2% spending cap,” UFT boss Michael Mulgrew said in March 2020, calling on legislators to lift a 2% cap on annual property tax increases, which had been implemented in 2012.
In 2014 the union called for the city to raise “absurdly low real estate taxes” on out-of-state landlords to secure more education funding.
Yet the UFT filed at least 33 “tax certiorari” lawsuits against New York City since 2003 to have its property tax bill reduced.
The union has argued the city assessments were “unjust, erroneous, illegal, unlawful, excessive and unequal.”
The desire for tax relief also extends to their most senior officials’ private homes. Randi Weingarten, a former UFT boss who now serves as president of the American Federation of Teachers, has filed at least two lawsuits — in 2014 and 2021 — contesting property taxes on a $1.55 million East Hampton home she co-owns with her sister, according to East Hampton property assessment rolls. Both cases were settled.
Ironically, while getting mega tax breaks from the city, the city also pays the union to lease space in its buildings.
The UFT has reaped more than $6.2 million in rent and other payments from city offices since 2010, according to data from the city comptroller’s office.
The Department of Education was the union’s largest city tenant.
The UFT controls both buildings under nonprofit holding companies — 50 Broadway Realty Corp. and 52 Broadway Realty Corp.
Mulgrew is listed as the principal officer of both, according to their most recent 990 tax forms. As 501(c)(2) organizations, both buildings are also exempt from paying federal income taxes.
“The city tax code provides provisions for tax relief which apply to owners of real property. As part of preserving union resources, the UFT has participated in these programs,” a UFT spokesman told The Post.
Critics said the sweetheart tax deals were a blatant double standard.
“Ask any teacher, firefighter, or police officer on Staten Island whether they can afford a property tax hike. It’s unconscionable that some people think hard-working taxpayers are ATMs with endless funds when the truth is if properties like the ones owned by UFT paid their fair share, the burden wouldn’t be falling on the middle class,” Rep. Nicole Malliotakis told The Post.