Parks Department Layoffs Averted in Deal with Union

By Olivia Scheck on August 19, 2011 4:20pm 

An employee of the New York City Parks Department cleans up a downed tree following a late afternoon storm on September 17, 2010.
An employee of the New York City Parks Department cleans up a downed tree following a late afternoon storm on September 17, 2010.
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Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

MANHATTAN — Hundreds of Parks Department layoffs were averted this week after a deal was struck with the city workers' union DC 37.

A previous plan to terminate 465 permanent parks workers will be nixed and replaced with a "voluntary attrition program" under the deal, according to a statement released by the union.

“The program allows all full-time employees in the Parks Department the option to voluntarily retire or resign and continue to work up to six months a year for the next three years, while protecting their rights as Union members,” the statement explained.

After the three years is up, the workers will be phased out, Mayor Michael Bloomberg clarified in his weekly radio interview Friday morning.

The plan will rely on a sufficient number of workers — fearful of potential layoffs and still shy of retirement age — coming forward to join the attrition program.

In addition to the attrition plan, the Parks Department will eliminate an unknown number of positions that are currently held by non-perminent employees, according to a statement by Bloomberg administration spokesman Marc LaVorgna.

"The agreement enables the Parks Department to achieve the same savings this fiscal year as would have been achieved through layoffs, while maintaining the quality of City parks," LaVorgna said.

But not everyone was pleased with the arrangement.

Geoffrey Croft, of the non-profit group NYC Park Advocates, argued that cutting down on park staff would indeed have negative consequences for the facilities and criticized the city's commitment to maintaining its parks.

"Over the last 45 years, no other city agency has lost a greater percentage of its workforce than the Parks Department," Croft said. "[Elected officials] don't feel like funding parks is a priority and that's obvious."

During his radio address Friday morning, Bloomberg declared that the responsibility of maintaining the city's parks would increasingly have to be turned over to private individuals and organizations.

"We're gonna have to find other ways to lock in the funding because city government is just not gonna have the resources," the mayor said. "Next year and the year after are gonna be very, very tough."

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