Parks Workers Protest Budget Cuts

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Proposed cuts to the city's Parks Department — including scaling back hours of more than 1000 full-time employees — have some local union members up in arms.

Members of DC 37 and other local unions gathered on the steps of City Hall Thursday to protest the reduction of 1,500 full-time workers' hours to nine months out of the year and six months a year for 400 workers.

"If the various scenarios that we're looking at to save money don't work, and if the budget picture doesn't improve and were held to make the cuts that are required of us and other agencies, then we'll have to do more drastic things and we might have to go to layoffs," said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, who noted the proposed staff reductions are voluntary and intended to avoid layoffs.

Dennis Fishley, a park maintenance worker in Fort Washington, said if he only worked nine months a year he would likely wind up on public assistance: "I pay $1,100 dollars a month rent. Yes, I have a car note that I have to pay. I have other bills also. Yes, working nine months out of the year would hit me hard," he said.

The Parks Department is also proposing to close public pools two weeks early this summer and close four city pools to save $1.5 million dollars. They face a budget reduction of eight percent.

"For an administration that talks about healthy activity, it seems that their money isn't where their mouth is," said president of Local 508 Peter Stein.

The Bloomberg Administration proposed similar cuts to pools last year, but the City Council restored the money in the budget to keep the pools open.


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