Public Employee PressDe Blasio cancels NYCHA layoffs
By GREGORY N. HEIRES
One of Mayor Bill de Blasio's first acts in office was to cancel the Bloomberg administration's planned layoffs of NYCHA employees. Above, members protest the layoffs in a November demonstration at NYCHA headquarters.
Word came down the day after Mayor Bill de Blasio's Jan. 1 inauguration: The layoffs the Bloomberg administration had planned for the New York City Housing Authority were canceled.
By that time, the possible layoffs had dwindled to 13 from the original 160 targeted in last year's New York City Housing Authority plan to close its senior and youth centers. The numbers steadily decreased in recent months as DC 37 — with the involvement of leaders and activists from Locals 371, 375, 768, 957 and 2627 — battled to save the jobs and convince the agency to redeploy the workers.
The remaining 13 workers were to be axed Jan. 5.
DC 37 worked with NYCHA and the city until the eleventh hour to try to prevent the layoffs before learning Jan. 2 that they were canceled, said DC 37 Research and Negotiations Director Evelyn Seinfeld.
"One layoff is one layoff too many," DC 37 Associate Director Henry Garrido said. "We are happy the new administration didn't allow these cruel and unnecessary layoffs to go through. We are hopeful this signals a new beginning of better labor relations with the city."
"We believe the mayor's office intervened" to block the layoffs, said Social Service Employees Union Local 371 President Anthony Wells. But he noted that 160 youth and senior centers at NYCHA are still scheduled to close by June. "So this fight is not over."
Former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's NYCHA chair, John Rhea, sought to abandon the agency's commitment to social services. He also planned to lease NYCHA properties to developers and left 420,000 apartment repairs undone while he sat on a $1 billion reserve of federal funds.
"Hopefully, the new administration will have a different philosophy," Wells said. "Mayor de Blasio's campaign called attention to the city's rising economic inequality. Certainly protecting public housing should be a key component of any public policy that aims to address inequality."
The 160 senior and youth centers in jeopardy are slated to be put under the Dept. for the Aging and the Dept. of Youth and Community Development, which plan to contract out the services now provided by NYCHA.
DC 37 has investigated and found that the outsourced jobs would offer low pay and poor benefits. It is unreasonable to expect that such workers would provide the same level of professionalism as civil servants, according to union officials.
Some 400,000 people, including 15,000 DC 37 members, reside in public housing. Last year, the union launched a campaign to organize NYCHA residents and workers around housing and political issues.
Wells said de Blasio's choice of the new head of NYCHA will be an important indication of the future direction of the agency.
Rhea resigned as chair of NYCHA on Dec. 30, before de Blasio could fire him, according to a report in the Daily News.