Good Afternoon
Good Afternoon
NewsNew York

NYC Council rushes through pension measure opposed by police, fire unions

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at the Fire Department of New York's (annual Medal Day, where firefighters receive awards for acts of courage, at City Hall on June 3, 2015 in New York City. Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton

On unusually short notice, the New York City Council Wednesday debated and passed pension legislation backed by Mayor Bill de Blasio for disabled firefighters and police officers while their unions were rallying against the bill in Albany with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The last-minute addition had been omitted from the council's agenda available the night before, and it was excluded from the chamber's press materials and public website.

At issue is the payout given to uniformed personnel disabled by on-the-job injuries.

Because of a 2009 change in state law, recent hires get only half pay, with the amounts further reduced by Social Security disability benefits, while more veteran cops and firefighters get three-quarters pay without such offsets for Social Security.

The mayor's bill calculates the disability pension for a higher wage scale for the newer employees, but is not the full benefit restoration the unions want.

What the council approved -- with 31 in favor, 17 against and 3 abstaining -- has no immediate impact but is enabling legislation to ask Albany to change the pension system in line with the mayor's proposal.

Its fate is unclear: The Democrat-controlled Assembly is divided, and the GOP-controlled Senate has opposed the mayor on the issue.

In an often raucous rally in Albany of hundreds of New York City firefighters and cops, Cuomo backed the unions.

"You should go to the New York City Council and say, 'You do the right thing!' " Cuomo shouted to the roaring crowd in FDNY and NYPD T-shirts. "As governor of the state, I am with you!"

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who refused to say exactly when the bill was added to the agenda, denied "doing anyone's bidding."

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Queens), who backs the unions' position, criticized the maneuver. "It's incredibly frustrating," said Crowley, whose competing bill didn't get a vote. "It's not democratic."

In other council action, lawmakers passed a bill to restrict the use of criminal records in hiring and another law to regulate car washes. The vote was 45 to 5 with one abstention.

The Fair Chance Act prohibits prospective employers from asking applicants about their criminal records until after a job offer is made, and then must give the person a chance to explain their record.

"I'm happy that this bill will help all those who have been convicted of crimes," said Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn), a lead sponsor.

The Car Wash Accountability Act, which passed 43 to 7 with one abstention, mandates that nonunion shops obtain bonds of $150,000 to be used in case of work mistreatment. Unionized washes would need only a $30,000 bond because those shops are less likely to mistreat workers, sponsors say.

With Michael Gormley

More news