Good Day Sunshine! New Yorkers working in the elements finally get a break
Good weather is good business.
The warmth that has swarmed NYC of late is like a warm kiss after a long fight that began with the knock-out punch of Superstorm Sandy. "Outdoor cafes, fancy roof top gardens and bars, all these things open up," creating jobs and increasing worker pay, said Joshua Freeman, a professor of history at the Murphy Labor Institute at CUNY.
"There are a lot of people in NYC whose work is shaped by the weather," he added.
Sunshine is "life and death" for Omar Dulla, 34, of Fordham. Dulla is a pamphleteer for Bike Rental Central Park and "a commission man," who doesn't receive a salary. When the sun is out, tourists are in force and he can make $60 - $70 a day for steering customers to the bike shop. "When the weather is bad, no one wants a bike," and he makes little or nothing, he said.
Weather conditions not only affect income, but safety conditions and productivity.
The crew working on the 102nd floor of the Freedom Tower can install 20 "curtain walls" on a warm day, whereas the max might be 10 on a frigid day, said Brian Geraghty, 34, an iron worker from Bensonhurst. It's always at least 20 degrees colder and the winds are always many multiples stronger when working at high altitudes. Geraghty estimates he makes 20% more in good weather months, in part because job sites are less likely to be closed down for wind-related safety reasons.
"You can't beat working outside on a great day: Even the rain in the summer doesn't bother me: It cools you off," said Jonathan Vargas, 23, a grounds technician in Central Park. Tasks change too: Instead of shoveling salt on paths to melt ice, you're pulling weeds and planting seeds, creating life. Like many outdoor workers, Vargas is conscripted into a human information kiosk for all the visitors seeking guidance and directions. "We all help," he said happily.
When the weather is balmy, the Central Park carriage horses don't trot as fast because "they don't have to warm their bodies," explained Robert Boyle, 48, a carriage driver who lives in New City.
Michael Lagino, 43, a garbage man from Bensonhurst for Elite Demolition Contracting Corp., enjoys the rays. But he and his coworkers are stymied by pedestrians that flood the sidewalks and increased traffic on picture perfect days. "You've got more foot traffic, more people on the sidewalks. That makes things more difficult," as does the added vehicular traffic, which increases the trickiness of maneuvering his humongous truck. Waddya gonna do? "The city is the city," said Lagino, heaving a batch of dry wall into his truck.