August 31, 2004

Bloomberg avoids wrath


Bolstered by supporters from Boston and elsewhere, off-duty police attempted a surprise protest in Manhattan yesterday against Mayor Michael Bloomberg, only to find that their target was not there.

About 100 officers in blue T-shirts showed up outside the Bryant Park Grill, where they thought the mayor was attending a convention-related event.

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said the mayor's aides had heard about the protest and canceled the appearance.

Edward Skyler, the mayor's press secretary, said Bloomberg had attended a scheduled event at the same place Sunday, but had no plans to be there yesterday.

Off-duty firefighters joined police earlier in the day to welcome out-of-town police officers who came here to boost their protests regarding the lack of a new contract.

The police and firefighters, like most of the city's uniformed workers, have been without a contract for two years and have rejected a city offer of a 4 to 5 percent pay raise spread during three years.

Lynch said the protesters would continue to pop up unannounced at appearances by the mayor, as they have for weeks.

"They won't know where, they won't know when, but they'll know when we get there," Lynch said. "We're going to be there when he wakes up and we're going to put him to bed."

Visiting officers from Boston, Las Vegas, and Mesa, Ariz., joined the PBA for the protest.

"The nation took a pledge ... that we will never forget. Are those mere words? Well, Mayor Bloomberg has forgotten," said Thomas Nee, head of the Boston police union.

Wayne Hartmann, an official of the Nassau County PBA, said he was there to show support. "Their raise is long deserved," he said. "The reality is that they're grossly underpaid."

Stephen Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, also greeted the arriving police, but the firefighters did not join the Bryant Park protest.

The unions have used the convention in an attempt to gain public support for their position, but they have tacitly acknowledged that nothing will change in the short run.

"This problem is going to be here after the party's over," Lynch said outside the Bryant Park Grill.