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200 New York City Parks Department Jobs ‘Restored Following Union Action’

Published Tuesday, July 5, 2022
by Bob Hennelly/LaborPress
200 New York City Parks Department Jobs ‘Restored Following Union Action’

(NEW YORK CITY) - The first person that Victoria Cooley, 34, a Seasonal Aid with the New York City Parks Department, called when she was told June 30th would be her last day was Joe Puleo, the President of American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 37’s Local 983, which represents her and several thousand Blue Collar - as well as Skilled Trades Workers that work for the city. 

Victoria Cooley was among 200 Parks Department Workers slated to be fired this month - despite a no-layoff pledge from Mayor Eric Adams.

During a phone interview, Puleo told LaborPress that Cooley was one of 200 Entry Level Workers that were slated to be terminated at the end of the fiscal year before July 1st.

They had originally been hired as part of Mayor de Blasio New Deal-inspired City Cleanup Corp that was funded with American Rescue Plan funds from Washington, which were temporary. 

Puleo’s phone blew up with other Seasonal Aids who were worried about their imminent termination.

He was surprised.

New York City Council Member Shekar Krishnan, the new Chair of the Council’s Parks and Recreation Committee, and Speaker Adrieene Adams had gotten a no lay-off pledge from Mayor Adams and there had been that handshake deal.

“We were promised during the budget negotiating process that was just completed between the Mayor’s Office and the Speaker’s Office that none of these people would be laid off,” Puleo said. “These people do the basic clean-up operation of the city’s parks, the bathrooms - looking out for broken glass and litter all for the minimum wage.  This would have compounded the problem that we have because kids don’t want to come on these jobs because fast food actually pays more right now.”

Puleo continued: “These are people who really need the job - they’re on the razor’s edge - single parents - people who lost a job during the pandemic and because the pay is below what fast food is paying.  We are not seeing anybody willing to do these jobs.  Without this help we would be back to this early pandemic conditions in the parks with the garbage piled seven feet high, broken glass in all of the kids’ playgrounds and filthy restrooms.”   

Cooley, who has a 13-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter, had been first notified on December 23rd that her last day would be June 30th.

In a phone interview, Cooley said her supervisor recently said he had received no subsequent information about her slot being extended - so she was terminated.

Cooley called Puleo, whose first call was to District Council’s Executive Director Henry Garrido, who in turn called Chair Krishnan on June 29th.

“I was shocked when (I) heard from DC 37 that Parks Workers were being laid off,” Krishnan told LaborPress. “Immediately, I got on the phone late at night with Parks Commissioner Susan Donoghue and this morning I made a number of calls.  Our Department of Parks Workers are the ‘beating hearts’ of our parks in New York City.  There would be no well-maintained parks or green spaces, which was why I was proud to fight for a record Parks budget particularly dedicated to protecting Park Workers in their jobs.”

In fact, this year’s upcoming budget earmarks $624 million for parks, including 715 new permanent positions - an historic high.

After Puleo called Garrido, he called LaborPress and a few other news outlets.

By late afternoon on June 30th, the 200 Department of Parks Workers had gotten their jobs back until September 15th. 

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