Queens Gazette

Cop, Fire Unions Burning Mad Over Proposed Cuts

By Liz Goff

Police and fire union officials and elected officials are blasting Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 2012 executive budget proposal that calls for some half-billion dollars in cuts to the NYPD budget and $200 million in the FDNY budget, along with the closings of 20 unidentified fire companies.

Union leaders are fuming over Bloomberg’s proposal to eliminate the city Variable Supplement Fund (VSF) that has, since 1968, provided a guaranteed annual $12,000 payment [a year] to non-disability retired cops and firefighters.

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) and the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA), together representing the New York City Police and Fire Safety Alliance, are engaged in a media blitz that includes print ads depicting Bloomberg as Pinocchio with a rapidly growing nose.

Officials at both unions called the move to pull the VSF “an attempt to renege on a long-standing agreement that was bought and paid for in previous negotiations”.

UFA President Steven Cassidy said Bloomberg is using the excuse of downturn in the economy to try to steal a defined benefit from municipal union workers.

Bloomberg said the moderate reform is one of many needed to achieve a balanced budget to avoid further cuts in services. Failure to take action would force the city to begin a new round of gap closing initiatives that could result in layoffs and service cuts.

“A lie is a lie, no matter how many times you repeat it,” PBA President Patrick Lynch said. “Mayor Bloomberg has orchestrated an out-and-out assault on the livelihood and reputation of the very people who risk their lives to make this city safe and livable,” Lynch declared. “We will not stand for it.”

Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, chairperson of the Council¬† Fire and Criminal Justice Committee, last week singled out other city programs that could be cut to provide the savings needed to help close the city’s $4.58 billion budget gap.

“At a time when the city has dumped billions of dollars into a failed 911 system upgrade, and will spend more to have NASA fix the system, Mayor Bloomberg is reducing Fire Department staffing and proposing to shut 20 fire companies,” Crowley said.

“Simply stated, it doesn’t matter how sophisticated our 911 system is, if no one is at the firehouse to respond to an emergency.”