Owners of dozens of recently-built homeless hotels are saving millions of dollars on city taxes through an obscure rebate program that allowed them to hold on to $12.5 million in the 2018-2019 tax cycle.
Of the owners benefiting from the tax break — known as the Industrial and Commercial Abatement Program — the biggest winners include Sam Chang, Harshad Patel and Riverbrook Equities, according to a New York Hotel Trades Council analysis obtained and vetted by the Daily News.
Chang, for example, has built 49 hotels since 2006.
Of those, 14 have housed the homeless. Five have received ICAP rebates and saved approximately $2.3 million on their 2018-2019 tax bills, city records show.
Chang, who still retains ownership in one of the hotels, the Holiday Inn JFK, saved $791,323 in taxes for that property during the last tax cycle.
In all, 44 homeless hotels appear to have received both the ICAP rebate and homeless subsidies within the past four years, city records show. There are a total of 151 hotels that get ICAP rebates. From 2015 to 2019, homeless hotels that got the rebates saved more than $30 million.
All the while, owners like Chang and other operators who get the tax rebates are getting paid by the city to house the homeless. That money is routed to the hotels through homeless service “management companies,” which get the money directly from the city.
A spokeswoman for Chang’s McSam Hotel Group said the company has done nothing wrong.
“McSam Hotel Group complies with New York City laws, rules and regulations in building hotels. We never build hotels with the intent of housing homeless persons, "spokeswoman Lisa Linden said." McSam Hotel Group makes no decisions regarding whether homeless persons are housed in hotels. The management companies make those decisions.”
Harshad Patel said the rebate fulfills its mission of creating jobs and that critics are ignoring the big picture.
“It’s the only reason we are building,” he said. "We have a lot of expenses.”
The city projects it will spend $2.1 billion overall on tackling the homelessness crisis in 2020. In 2018, $384 million went from city coffers to housing homeless people in hotels. Less clear is how much of the city’s homeless budget is going specifically to hotels that already receive the ICAP rebate.