Weingarten Looks to Soothe Tension Over Placard Cuts

Today is the first workday of the new year for city public school teachers, some 52,000 of whom have a little over a month to prepare for a commute without free parking privileges.

RandiW07.jpgAs reported earlier this week, the city and the United Federation of Teachers have reached an agreement that will rescind all but about 11,000 teacher parking placards, putting the number of placards on par with the number of on-street spaces allotted for school parking across the boroughs (an additional 15,000 off-street spaces are also designated for teacher use). Allocation of placards will be left to the discretion of individual school principals and UFT chapter leaders (who are also teachers), and must be completed by October 1.

Perhaps sensing unrest among the membership, UFT President Randi Weingarten, who is in Denver this week, released a missive yesterday ensuring teachers that teacher parking spaces had not been reduced, and that the deal with the city “presents an opportunity for an increase in the number of spots.” This last is apparently a reference to an appeals process briefly outlined in a recent letter to Weingarten from Bloomberg Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler [PDF].

While in her letter to teachers, the full text of which appears after the jump, Weingarten characterizes the agreement as a win, school personnel aren’t happy. Speaking to the Times, one Bronx middle school principal riffed on a previous Weingarten complaint, intimating that the best of New York’s Brightest will gravitate to schools with available auto storage.

“What I think will end up happening is we’ve already got competition
for teachers, and schools with parking lots will become even more
desirable than they were before,” he said.

Here’s the Weingarten letter:

There are a lot of rumors floating around regarding parking placards.
Do not believe everything you hear and read. The Education Department
was the only city agency not to lose parking spots, and that is because
the UFT fought hard for its members from the moment the mayor first
announced his intention to cut spaces. We filed a grievance and took
the case to the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB), and we were
the only ones to negotiate a parking agreement. The deal that the union
and the city reached yesterday ensures that all on-street and
off-street parking spots for schools have been preserved and presents
an opportunity for an increase in the number of spots.

Teacher parking has always been a problem in New York City. There has
never been enough. In the past, the Department of Education has sought
to address this problem by increasing the number of permits without
increasing the number of actual spots. This has created problems for
neighborhoods and educators. Although I would rather the city not
change the process right now, the agreement the UFT reached with the
city continues the number of available spots and more closely aligns
the number of placards with the number of spots. This brings the
decision on who gets the placards to the school level where it belongs.

Under the agreement, the number of permits available to a school will
be limited to the number of available spaces currently designated for
parking by DOE personnel. The principal and chapter leader in each
school will decide the distribution of these on-street and off-street
placards, whether through assignment to individual people, pooling of
placards for use each day (which could be on a first-come, first-serve
basis), or some combination of those two methods. There is now an
appeals process when the principal and chapter leader can’t agree as
well as a way for the principal or chapter leader to appeal if they
believe their school needs more parking spots. The city will also issue
at least 1,000 additional parking placards for educators whose work
requires them to travel between different schools.

Enforcement of the new system will begin Oct. 1. New placards will start to be issued at the beginning of the school year.

We recommend that chapter leaders advocate for a transparent and
reasonable system of allocation that is fair to staff. If you have any
questions or concerns about the agreement or your role in the
allocation process, please contact your district rep.

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