NYC's crossing guard fight


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Nov 01, 2023

NYC's crossing guard fight

By MADINA TOURÉ 06/05/2023 04:52 PM EDT Presented by Union leaders, school


06/05/2023 04:52 PM EDT

Presented by

Union leaders, school crossing guards and Council members rally to protect crossing guard positions in Lower Manhattan during a news conference on June 5, 2023. | Madina Toure/POLITICO

Union leaders said Monday they plan to fight cuts to New York City school crossing guard positions.

Henry Garrido, executive director of District Council 37 — the city's largest municipal union — said community boards have requested more school crossing guards. A budget process, he said, has always been a "statement of values."

"If you value our community, our safety, you wanna make sure that safety is funded," Garrido said during a rally outside Tweed Courthouse, the Department of Education's headquarters, on Monday morning. "So we’re gonna meet with the Council speaker, we’re gonna meet with the delegations… stop picking on school crossing guards because they deserve better."

The NYPD is getting rid of close to 500 school crossing guard positions. NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell requested an 18 percent "overall reduction" from each NYPD borough command by June 2, according to the Daily News.

NYPD spokesperson Al Baker told the Daily News that the reductions were done by "eliminating vacant positions" and that there are 600 part-time vacancies in the school crossing guard position. That count, he said, was reduced by 483 positions but the "budgetary maneuver" did not consist of layoffs given that no active positions were scrapped.

Shaun Francois, president of Local 372 NYC Board of Education Employees — the union that represents the city's school crossing guards — said the crossing guards are worried about losing their jobs.

"This is ridiculous," Francois said. "We’re talking about our precious children here. We’re talking about the children that need to go to school each and every day safely. It's what us parents do each day, we worry about the fate of our children while we go to work to make ends meet to make sure our children are safe. And our crossing guards do just that job."

The union leaders were joined by Council members as well as advocates and school crossing guards as the city looks to have a budget deal by month's end for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

In a statement, Jonah Allon, a City Hall spokesperson, said vacancy reductions they have taken have not resulted in a single layoff. Allon also said that in partnership with school crossing guards, the administration redesigned 1,400 intersections last year, completed hundreds of extra street redesigns near schools and secured state legislation to turn on 24/7 speed cameras.

"The Adams administration is laser-focused on keeping students safe — going to school in the morning, at school during the day, and going home in the afternoon," Allon said in a statement.

"There is a national labor shortage and that is making it harder for lots of people to hire. We always are working to fill positions, but removing vacancies is an efficient way to achieve savings. As with any agency, if the NYPD fills all budgeted positions for crossing guards, we will work with them to increase capacity."

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Gov. Kathy Hochul delivers remarks at the ground breaking for new Buffalo Bills stadium in Orchard Park on June 5, 2023. | Darren McGee/ Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

Gov. Kathy Hochul and a long list of top state and NFL officials had a ceremonial groundbreaking for a new Buffalo Bills stadium in Orchard Park on Monday morning. It was a key milestone for the project, which wasa major component of Hochul's first budget in 2022.

The plans, and specifically the $600 million in state money that is going to them, were unpopular statewide and the subject of frequent attacks on the campaign trail last year. But a new stadium has always been popular in Buffalo itself — one poll last year found that about 70 percent of residents were in favor of the team's plans.

"To the psyche of people from Western New York, it's the Buffalo Bills; it's part of our identity, and that's incredibly important and it would have been devastating if we lost them," said state Sen. Pat Gallivan, a Republican who represents the stadium site.

Gallivan attended the groundbreaking before traveling to Albany on Monday. "It was a very festive mood," he said. "The weather was very nice, but for the haze coming from the fires in Canada." — Bill Mahoney

SENECA COMPACT: There's still hope that a bill that would authorize Hochul to negotiate a new gaming compact with the Seneca Nation in Western New York can be approved before the legislative session ends this week, the bill's sponsor Sen. Tim Kennedy said Monday.

The Senecas are pushing for the bill as a way to press the state for a new compact before the current one expires at year's end. Kennedy said he would like to see the bill approved before the session ends, but noted it could also be done in conjunction with any agreement reached with the influential tribe.

"There's ongoing negotiations right now between the administration and the Senecas, and we want to make sure that we’re doing our part to move the process forward," Kennedy told POLITICO.

"The bill I have is looking toward the future. We’ve been consistent in that message, and we would expect there would be some enabling legislation moving forward to ensure that whenever the negotiations are complete that the compact is a strong one for all parties involved." — Joseph Spector

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CHURCH AND STATE: Houses of worship around New York will host up to 1,000 asylum-seekers under a partnership that Adams announced Monday.

"We’re expanding the amount of emergency shelter available to asylum-seekers, helping to ease the strain on New York City's existing shelter system, and integrating asylum-seekers into local communities — that's why this is a win-win," Adams said at a City Hall press conference.

"It's an amazing return on our investment, it is allowing us to have asylum seekers be a part of a community."

The administration has said it has run out of hotel space for migrants, around 46,000 of whom are in the city's shelter system. The deal with houses of worship is the latest in a series of unorthodox locations the city has been considering including a warehouse and a decommissioned prison. — Janaki Chadha and Joe Anuta

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PACKAGING PUSH: Environmental groups that have sometimes been at odds are now on the same page in support of a new version of a measure to reduce packaging waste, including plastic. Now, it's a race against the clock to overcome long odds for passage of the complex measure in the next few days. Industry groups oppose the bill, citing changes and the lack of time for additional input.

The bill sponsors, Environmental Conservation Committee chairs Sen. Pete Harckham and Assemblymember Deborah Glick, appeared with the major environmental advocates who have worked on the issue. "Everybody up here deserves credit for compromise," Harckham said at the press conference in Albany on Monday. "There were two different philosophies that governed this bill for several years."

The state's leading business organization highlighted the changes to the role of industry in a statement opposing the amended bill.

"This legislation will not just be costly to private sector employers but will result in increased consumer costs and fewer choices for consumers," said Ken Pokalsky, vice president of government affairs for The Business Council of New York State. "Entire categories of packaging materials will be restricted, and companies will change their offerings to respond to new state-specific mandates and prohibitions, also hurting consumer options." — Marie J. French

JUDGE IN CHARGE: Judge James P. Murphy was tapped Monday as deputy chief administrative judge for courts outside New York City, Chief Administrative Judge Joseph Zayas announced.

Murphy succeeds Norman St. George as the court system under new Chief Judge Rowan Wilson looks to rebuild after the abrupt resignation last year of then-Chief Judge Janet DiFiore.

Murphy will manage the day-to-day operations of the trial- level courts outside New York City, which include over 640 state-paid judges and 6,000-plus non-judicial employees.

"Judge Murphy is an energetic leader with a keen intellect and a passion for the law and public service," Zayas said in a statement, noting Murphy's 40 years of experience in the state court system that included serving as administrative judge for the Fifth Judicial District in Central New York. — Joseph Spector

A new ad campaign is looking to encourage more people to quit smoking.| Patrick Sison/AP Photo

PUBLIC HEALTH: The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene launched a $1.5 million media campaign to spread the word about free resources that can help New Yorkers quit smoking, which include calls with a "quit coach" and starter kits of nicotine medication. The ads are running citywide on television, radio, LinkNYC kiosks, the Staten Island Ferry and digitally through the end of June.

Another media campaign, released by the department in May, was developed with Charles B. Wang Community Health Center and is tailored toward Asian New Yorkers. Data show Asian and Pacific Islanders smokers in the city were less likely to have used nicotine products in the past year than Black, Latino and white adults who smoke, according to the Health Department. — Maya Kaufman

TRANSPORTATION: Two members of the advocacy group Families for Safe Streets said they will begin a hunger strike on Tuesday unless Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie brings "Sammy's Law" to a floor vote.

The bill would allow New York City to set speeds as low as 20 miles per hour, increasing the odds of a crash victim's survival. The legislation is named after Sammy Cohen Eckstein, a 12-year-old who was hit and killed by a van a decade ago near his Brooklyn home. His mother, Amy Cohen, and Fabiola Mendieta-Cuapio, whose son Bryan was killed by a driver, are participating in the hunger strike.

Advocates are taking the step after reports that the Assembly was cooling on the bill, which has the support of Gov. Kathy Hochul, the state Senate and Mayor Eric Adams. — Danielle Muoio Dunn

CUNY LAWSUIT: Several City University of New York professors are suing Professional Staff Congress, the college's union, in a challenge to a New York law that requires they be represented by the union. The case was brought to the second court of appeals on Monday.

The six CUNY professors say their first amendment rights were violated by union bosses because they are forced to accept their representation. They claim the professors experienced "anti-Semitic and anti-zionist attacks" from members of the PSC. They are challenging the state's "Taylor's Law," which requires faculty of the school to be represented by the union.

Several of the professors say CUNY and PSC have created a hostile work environment for Jewish faculty who support the State of Israel. The suit is seeking to stop the union from representing individuals without their consent. — Katelyn Cordero

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— A Rockland County hotel can reopen, but not yet to migrants from New York City (LoHud)

— New York politicians are increasingly embracing rap's city roots as it celebrates its 50-year anniversary (City & State)

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