Nearly three-quarters (307) of the 416 firefighters and fire officers who retired from the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) during 2017 are eligible to collect pensions of at least $100,000, according to data posted today to SeeThroughNY.net, the Empire Center’s transparency website.
Pensions for 2017 retirees averaged $126,993, up from the 2016 average of $117,914. Twenty-five new retirees are eligible for pensions over $200,000. Retirees earning over $200,000 were largely superior officers, including battalion chiefs, captains and lieutenants.
Out of 15,548 total FDNY retirees, the number with six-figure pensions has risen to 23 percent (3,588), up from 8 percent (1,267) in 2011. A total of 161 FDNY retirees are eligible for pensions over $200,000.
In the past, the high average level of 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 database providing names of retirees as well as pension benefit levels is available to the public thanks to five years of legal action by the Empire Center. In April 2015, following a legal intervention by the Empire Center, a state Supreme Court justice blocked efforts by the FDNY unions and the New York City Fire Department Pension Fund to conceal pension payments from the public.
In its latest legal fight for government transparency, the Empire Center is currently challenging the New York City Police Pension Fund’s nearly decade-long practice of refusing to release the names of retirees in response to Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests.