Hundreds of New York City police officers and firefighters will join forces May 6 in a rally at Battery Park, a march up Broadway’s “Canyon of Heroes” and a press conference on the City Hall steps to pressure city and state legislators to do the right thing by police officers and firefighters hired since July 2009, who receive a lower level of disability pension benefits than colleagues hired earlier and every other police officer in New York State. In some cases, this benefit may be as little as $27 a day.
“Do they deserve less?” asked PBA President Patrick J. Lynch, referring to the more than 8,000 police officers and 1,400 firefighters hired since July 1, 2009, who come under the Tier 3 pension plan and receive woefully inadequate disability benefits if they are injured in the line of duty and are unable to return to duty. “The city has a moral obligation to protect and support police officers and firefighters who are injured in its service. We are asking our city leaders to honor that obligation by equalizing disability pension benefits for all.”
UFA President Steve Cassidy said, “The City of New York is failing 1,400 of its newest firefighters, sworn in after a federal court mandated greater diversity in the FDNY’s hiring practices. Should these new firefighters be permanently disabled in the line of duty, the mayor and city council speaker believe that these, the best trained firefighters in the world, are able to survive, feed their families and pay their rent on just $27 per day. The position of the mayor and city council speaker is wrong. We are holding a ‘March for Equality’ because the UFA believes all New York City Firefighters and Police Officers require equal disability protections, should they be permanently disabled protecting the lives of New Yorkers. Protecting New York City Firefighters and Police Officers who run into harm’s way is a societal and moral imperative."
The firefighters and police officers participating in the May 6 events are scheduled to gather at Battery Park’s northeast corner of between 10 and 10:30 a.m. and begin their march at 11 a.m., tracing the steps of generations of other New York City heroes. Their City Hall press conference is scheduled for noon.
Bills pending in the New York State Legislature (S4269 Golden / A 6046 Abbate) would grant police officers and firefighters hired under Tier 3 the same disability pension protections as those hired earlier under Tier 2. State lawmakers need the City Council to pass a “home rule” resolution in support of the bills before it can bring them to the floor for a vote.
The PBA cited three examples of hero police officers who would suffer from the injustice of the lower pension benefits:
P.O. James Li was shot in both legs on February 26, 2014, as he attempted to apprehend a gun-toting fare-beater on a Brooklyn bus. Li had graduated from the Police Academy only two months earlier. A year after the shooting, he is still walking with a cane and continuing his rehabilitation in the hope of returning to full duty. If he is forced to retire, his city-funded benefits will amount to less than $10,000 a year.
P.O. Rosa Rodriguez, a four-year veteran of the NYPD and mother of four, suffered lung damage while responding to an April 6, 2014, arson fire on Coney Island that claimed the life of her partner, P.O. Dennis Guerra. If she is unable to continue to work, she would be left with a disability pension of less than $20,000 a year. If she had been hired a year earlier, she would receive more than $60,000 a year.
P.O. Kenneth Healey sustained a serious head injury when he and three other officers were set upon by a hatchet-wielding terrorist in Queens on October 23, 2014. He has been on the job for less than a year and is eager to get back to work. But if his injuries put an end to his career, he will also face a pension of just $27 a day.
As the NYPD currently has only a handful of officers on a potential disability list and the FDNY zero, it is clear the de Blasio Administration statements that fixing this would cost millions in 2015 are false and misleading. While the Administration refuses to allow a public hearing, the public fully expects police and firefighters to be there when needed. Does anyone really believe that new cops and firefighters will respond and take the risks the heroes of 9-11 did, if they are left unprotected?