Next time you see one of those purple NYU flags flying from yet another building, don't just take it as a sign that soon lower Manhattan will be unfit for habitation by the non-college-going public. More significantly for New Yorkers as a whole, every building acquired by educational institutions is also removed from the city's property-tax rolls. According to "Fatal Subtraction," a new report from the budget watchdog City Project, the resulting tax loss to the treasury amounted to $385 million in 2005--and is growing by about 12 percent each year.
If NYU and Columbia's metastasizing scholastic empires are the obvious targets, though--the two institutions, according to City Project, combine for 45 percent of the city's educational tax breaks--the 125-page "Fatal Subtraction" contains some surprises as well. Take, for example, the Chrysler Building. Built on land owned by Cooper Union, the hubcap-bedecked home of giant Quetzalcoatls has never paid a dime in property tax, even though the educational tax break is supposed to be limited to buildings used for classrooms or student and faculty housing.