The 471 Fire Department of New York (FDNY) officers and firefighters who retired in calendar year 2018 are eligible for average pensions of $129,259, according to data posted today at SeeThroughNY.net, the Empire Center’s transparency website.
According to the Empire Center’s analysis, the highest pension amounts were available to senior officers in the department. The 181 assistant chiefs, captains, battalion chiefs and lieutenants retiring in 2018 were eligible for average pensions of $162,592, while 290 newly retired firefighters were eligible for average pensions of $108,454. In total, 74 percent of newly retired FDNY employees were eligible for pensions with at least six-figures.
Out of all 15,616 FDNY retirees, 4,011 were eligible for six-figure pensions in 2019, more than triple the 2009 number.
Out of 37 new FDNY retirees eligible for pensions of $200,000 or more, 14 were captains, 10 were battalion chiefs and the rest held other officer ranks. The top five pensioners were William Seelig, assistant chief at $285,633; Stephen Raynis, assistant chief at $266,596; Kevin Blaine, battalion chief at $266,521; Brian Smith, captain at $252,680; and Paul Smith, captain at $251,044.
In the past, the high average level of FDNY pensions has in part reflected the number of firefighters receiving line-of-duty disability pensions, which are 75 percent of salary as opposed to the 50 percent available under normal service retirements. Higher benefits also include payments from an optional, guaranteed-return supplemental account supported by additional savings contributions by firefighters and fire officers who choose to participate in that plan.
The Empire Center recently won a major Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) case where a state Supreme Court justice ruled that the names of retired New York City police officers receiving public pensions must be released to the Empire Center. The ruling followed a ten-year legal battle with the city’s Police Pension Fund.
The Empire Center, based in Albany, is an independent, not-for-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to promoting policies that can make New York a better place to live, work and raise a family.
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