Union Calls for Additional Parks and School Workers

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Local 983 President Joe Puleo and Local 1505 President Dilcy Benn. Photo by Clarence Elie-Rivera

By DIANE S. WILLIAMS and ALFREDO ALVARADO

DC 37 leaders are making their case on behalf of understaffed agencies and overworked employees at a series of City Council budget hearings.

At a recent Parks Committee hearing, the union asked lawmakers to fully restore funds to the Parks budget to save 300 seasonal jobs and add 225 new hires to keep public parks clean and safe.

Mayor Bill de Blasio presented his $88.7 billion preliminary 2019 budget for the city back in February.

At the City Council hearings ,union leaders said more funds — not less — are needed. The preliminary Parks budget for fiscal year 2018-2019 is about $500 million, down from $531 million last year.

More funding needed

The funds, leaders said, would add more Urban Park Rangers, Parks Envorcement Patrol Officers, City Seasonal Aides, City Parks Workers and Gardeners to the Dept. Parks and Recreation workforce.

“Last year the City Council saved 100 City Seasonal Aides’ jobs that are not baselined and raised Parks’ security presence at Flushing Meadow and other parks where crime had spiked,” said Joseph Puleo, president of Local 983. The local represents CSAs, Parks Enforcment Patrol Officers, Urban Park Rangers and Associate Park Service Workers for safer experiences at the city’s 30,000 acres of public parks,
reserves and beaches.

Dilcy Benn, president of Local 1505, said last year’s budget enhancements saved about 100 City Park Workers and 50 Gardeners’ jobs that are not baselined, meaning that those jobs aren’t considered part of the city’s permanent payroll and therefore were not included in the proposed budget.

“These workers maintain parks. They support families and add to local economies,” Benn said.

Union and Parks officials agreed the agency is woefully underfunded. They said a full restoration of funding to Parks’ budget to hire 75 new PEP Officers and rangers and to save 450 maintenance jobs would stave off a return of blight and decay in city parks.

Donald Nesbit, executive vice president of Board of Education Employees Local 372, spoke on March 23 at the council’s Committee on Education and asked for the hiring of an additional 500 school food employees.

“Our members are coming in earlier and staying later to make sure students get a hot meal,” he said. “The additional employees would help reduce the strain on the workforce.”

Nesbit also called for providing job security and seniority rights for all workers with community titles who work at city schools and more funding for substance abuse counselors.

After the hearings, the City Council will approve de Blasio’s budget by June 30.

The DC 37 Blog is an official online publication of District Council 37, AFSCME, which represents 120,000 municipal employees in New York City. This post was originally in the May 2018 issue of Public Employee Press.

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