Public Sector Alliance November 19, 2014

Mark-Viverito opposes police pension bill

By Sally Goldenberg

 (William Alatriste for the New York City Council)

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the rank-and-file police union are at odds over a union-backed bill to increase disability pensions for officers.

For the first time since becoming Speaker on Jan. 8, Mark-Viverito has said she does not support a state measure to equalize disability retirement benefits for a tier of police officers hired after July 2009.

"It's been discussed extensively within the Council and is not something we're ready to move forward with at the moment," her spokesman, Eric Koch, told Capital on Tuesday. Asked for a further explanation, he cited "cost issues."

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association has been pushing Council members all year to pass a "home rule message" to green-light the state Legislature to approve the measure. (The Legislature asks the City Council to deliver a home rule on Albany bills that would directly impact the city.)

The bill would adjust disability pensions for members of the NYPD hired after July 2009 to conform with the benefits of those hired earlier. The newer hires who are injured in the line of duty receive pensions that total to about half their salaries, compared to 75 percent for older employees who retire on disability.

Until Tuesday, Mark-Viverito has kept an open mind—at least publicly—even as Mayor Bill de Blasio in June stated his opposition to the bill. He too cited financial reasons.

The city's former actuary estimated the measure would cost $35 million in Fiscal Year 2015, a figure the P.B.A. has said is artificially high. The union believes the estimate assumes more disability retirements that would take place, based on past figures.

The P.B.A. is in a protracted labor contract battle with the de Blasio administration and has been a constant critic of his on many issues, most recently troubles surrounding his wife's departing chief of staff, Rachel Noerdlinger.

The pronouncement from Mark-Viverito came as the Council found itself in a spat with the union over what amounts to a technology glitch.

The P.B.A. blasted an email Tuesday morning claiming the Council was blocking mass emails from constituents who signed onto a form letter on the union's website backing the bill.

"The City Council is blocking the delivering of constituents' emails calling for adequate support for police officers hired since 2009 who are disabled on the job, causing citizens to wonder if members are really representing voters' concerns," read the email.

P.B.A. president Pat Lynch said in the release, "The City Council's refusal to bring the necessary home rule message to the floor for a vote condemns hero police officers whose lives have been ruined in the service of the city to a life of abject poverty with absolutely no recourse."

Koch, Mark-Viverito's spokesman, said the P.B.A. emails came through on Friday, and were only interrupted over the weekend for a system-wide server problem. They were not intentionally blocked, he said.

The tech glitch was fixed on Monday and the emails have since been coming through, he said.