NEW YORK CITY — Supporters of a newly-passed state Senate bill to restore full disability pension to recently-hired police officers and firefighters demonstrated on the steps of City Hall Friday in a bid to push the mayor and the City Council to back it.
Members of the city's police unions, Public Advocate Letitia James and NYPD officers injured in the line of duty, including some of those wounded by a hatchet-wielding man in Queens, were among those gathered outside City Hall, some chanting "Pass the Bill."
"God forbid something happens to a policeman or fireman, the Council member or the mayor says, 'Our hearts go out to the family.' Maybe their pocketbooks should go out as well," said Brooklyn Assemblyman Peter Abbate, Jr., who joined the demonstration and is sponsoring a matching bill in the Assembly.
Abbate said the council should act immediately to reverse the current law, in which police officers and firefighters hired after July 2009 who are injured on the job aren't entitled to a traditional tax-free pension, calculated at three-quarters of their final year's salary.
He criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio for traveling around the country championing a $15 minimum raise while using a "stalling tactic" to avoid legislative action on disability pension restoration while Albany remains in session before summer break.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has expressed his opposition to the pension restoration bill, citing cost. De Blasio introduced his own proposal earlier this month, which was ripped by the city's unions as insufficient.
The state bill, sponsored by Brooklyn Sen. Marty Golden, would restore full disability pension to newly-hired police officers and firefighters. The bill passed the senate 56-0 Thursday.
But the City Council — which has to sign off on state legislation when it directly affects the affairs of NYC — would have to pass a so-called home rule resolution notfying the state that they support the legislation before it could move forward, under the state constitution.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has not indicated her position on the debate.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has sided with the unions regarding the pension legislation.
The rally came on the same day as the council's committee on State and Federal Legislation heard testimony in support of the state pension legislation.
“I firmly believe that if we don’t pass this resolution, it will affect our public safety,” said Queens Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, chair of the committee.
NYPD Officer Rosa Rodriguez was seriously injured last year while responding to a Coney Island blaze that killed her partner. DNAinfo New York first reported that she would likely become the first officer to face the reduced pension of 50 percent of her final year’s salary, minus half of any Social Security disability payments.
Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association Pat Lynch ripped the mayor and the City Council for their lack of urgency.
“We are very grateful that the members of the New York State Senate appreciate the need to restore appropriate benefits to police officers who are permanently disabled in the line of duty,” Lynch said in a statement. “It is sad that we don’t seem to have that same understanding in our own City Hall and City Council.”
Abbate, Jr., said he's ready to move forward with his legislation as soon as the council signs off.
"You don't want your first responders sitting out there with nothing," he said. "It's really not fair."