Mayor Bloomberg: Layoffs Likely, But $683M Tax Windfall Will Save Cop, Firefighter & Correction Jobs

NY Daily News - November 18, 2009

by Adam Lisberg and Erin Einhorn

Mayor Bloomberg warned Tuesday that some city workers will likely be laid off to fill a hole in next year's budget - even as the size of the hole shrank a bit.

"I would love to be able to get through this without any... layoffs, although I think it's unrealistic," Bloomberg said.

His threat came as his administration quietly reported an unexpected tax windfall of $683 million this year - of which $145 million will exempt cops, firefighters and correction officers from earlier budget cuts.

The NYPD needs $120 million because 1,000 fewer cops have retired than planned, while the FDNY will get $15million for extra overtime and the Correction Department will get $10 million for overtime.

"It's a policy decision," said one administration official. "You can't be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Firing police officers is not something Mayor Bloomberg supported."

Other city workers won't be so lucky - and while no one knows which classrooms, hospitals or other city offices will be targeted, many employees are bracing for pink slips.

"People are scared right now. I mean, they have families they have to feed, kids that maybe need to be paying college tuition," said Jeffery Wilson, 34, a father of two from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, who works as a grant analyst in the city's Records Department.

Bloomberg wants $566 million in new cuts from city agencies by next July, and $1.2 billion more in the year after that to close what is now a $4.1 billion hole in next year's budget. The gap has shrunk from $4.9billion.

Harry Nespoli, head of the Municipal Labor Committee, which negotiates for city unions, said he hopes the extra revenue will blunt the need for layoffs.

"He's putting everybody on guard," Nespoli said. "I get calls on a regular basis from my low-seniority people, saying, 'Will we have layoffs?' I tell them, 'I don't know.'"

Carla Brown, 57, is worried that losing her job as an intake worker for a program for the homeless at Bellevue Hospital could mean she will end up on the street herself.

"This is my only source of income," she said of the job she has had since 1988. "If I get laid off, it's going to affect my health. I'm supposed to go for [hernia] surgery. I'll have to apply for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid. ... What's the sense of making people homeless?"

"Everybody's unsettled," Brown said. "Everybody's anxious. Everybody's worried to the point of being almost crazed."