Tuesday’s Headlines: The Public Advocate Starts Advocating Edition

This is every afternoon in New York City. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
This is every afternoon in New York City. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

It only took five months and 19 cyclists dead this year, but Public Advocate Jumaane Williams — who has long been inconsistent on street safety issues (as well as a horrifically reckless driver himself) — will ride over the Brooklyn Bridge on Tuesday with cycling advocates, his office said in a press release.

“The bike tour will conclude in front of 1 Centre Street with a press conference, where the group will discuss steps the city must take to help prevent further tragedy,” Williams’s office said in its press advisory — the first statement of any kind from the public advocate in a year when blood is literally running in the streets and everyone else but Williams has been advocating for the public.

Better late than never, Mr. Advocate. Welcome to the fight for livable streets!

OK, we’re off the soapbox for now. Here’s the news:

  • It was nice to see the Daily News putting pressure on the NYPD to throw the book at driver Umar Baig, who killed Jose Alzorriz on Coney Island Avenue on Sunday — and sad to realize that if history is any guide, the “book” will be a very thin sheath of traffic summonses.
  • Fare fight? Transportation Alternatives is planning to rally in front of Arthur Schwartz’s house on Wednesday, making the lawyer the focus of anger over West Village residents’ successful court victory against the city’s plans for a car-free busway on 14th Street. “[That] this small group of West Village residents and their lawyers have used every dirty trick in the book to delay and forestall needed improvements is shameful,” TA said. Schwartz sees it differently: “Picketing a lawyer’s house to force him to stop representing clients is something the Klan did in the 1960s,” he told Streetsblog. Should be a fun night: Wednesday, 6:30 p.m., Schwartz’s place on W. 12th Street. [UPDATE: Schwartz is holding a counter-rally on Tuesday morning in front of TransAlt’s Manhattan headquarters, blasting what he called the group’s “undemocratic bullying.” Should be a fun morning: Tuesday, 11:30 a.m., TA’s place on John Street.]
  • If you missed 54 days of work last year, you’d be fired. But you’re not an MTA employee. (NY Post)
  • The Post’s Jekyll and Hyde team of David Meyer and Rich Calder took on Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s waffling on the 14th Street busway — as did Streetsblog’s Dave Colon and gentleman scholar Vin Barone at amNY.
  • Gothamist did some deep sea diving into MTA finances and found there’s a lot of red ink.
  • So, a drunk firefighter was caught driving 100 miles per hour in a 50 miles per hour zone. What do you think will happen to him? Well, he got two summonses, but will he be fired? We’ll keep you posted. (NY Post)
  • We were so happy to see the New York Times take on the issue of New York’s garbage problem with a truly repulsive (in a good way!) interactive photo feature. It’s truly repulsive (in a bad way!) what we put up with in this city. But we would be remiss if we didn’t remind reporter Winnie Hu that ignored the angle, as Streetsblog reported in June, that the best way to solve New York’s five o’clock shadow  — i.e. garbage-covered sidewalks — is to take space away from car owners, who for some reason think the curbside space exists solely for the storage of their private property.
  • Speaking of the Times, the Paper of Record certainly knows who to call when it needs to mainline some uncut livable streets advocacy. The latest example? Deservedly well-liked Azi Paybarah called our editor to help frame the busway story for the Gray Lady’s readers.
  • And in case you missed it, a pedestrian was struck and critically injured in increasingly dangerous Chelsea over the weekend. (WABC7)
  • Joe R.

    The number of days MTA employees get paid for not working is just incredible. On many of the jobs I used to have, even taking one day off would have been an automatic fire unless the boss knew in advance, approved it, and had someone to cover for me. Also, the day off was with no pay. Maybe it’s time to consider paying MTA workers as independent contractors. They’ll make more per hour than they do now (probably about 1.5x), but they won’t get paid for time off. In return, the MTA will have fixed costs. One hour of labor will cost whatever the contracted rate is for that position, without paying for extras like vacation or overtime.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The issue is the average number of sick days, and perhaps worker comp days. Four training days a year? Only if a month of training when first hired pulls up the average.

    The rest seems reasonable.

    “The internal data shows that among those days, workers for the MTA’s city subway and bus arm take an average of 18 vacation days, eight holidays, nine sick days and four training days — all paid. Employees also took an average of six workers’ comp days and another five unpaid sick days, the data shows.”

    If 6 worker comp days are days they claimed they were injured, that’s bad. But it might also be workers taking days off in exchange for overtime on other days, in lieu of overtime pay. That’s reasonable.

    That’s an average of 14 sick days. Absurd! Several things to consider.

    1) For NYC’s public sector sick leave can be banked, and if you retire with lots in the bank, you get paid 1/2 day for each sick day you didn’t take. That is a nice incentive to not abuse the sick leave system. And yet it seems to be abused by those who want to paid one day for each sick day, sick or not.

    2) If you’ve done the right thing and banked a load of sick leave, and then get cancer or a heart attack, you can be on sick leave for months. It could be examined how much those types of situations pull up the average. But remember transit workers get to retire at 55, before most people get cancer or have heart attacks.

  • Joe R.

    On the only job where I had paid sick days (8 per year) we couldn’t bank them but we were fully paid for any unused days at the end of the year. I wonder if the MTA changed the policy to allowing full pay for unused sick days upon retirement if that would end the abuse. It certainly worked for me. I took one sick day the entire three years I was there. Had the days not been paid, I probably would have made sure to use all of them.

    If the workers get 12 sick days a year, and never use any over a 30 year career, they could get the equivalent of 72 weeks pay upon retirement if they were fully paid. That’s a nice little retirement bonus. The only issue is the high taxes you’ll pay since it would be added right on top of your last year’s pay. In fact, that might be why it’s not much of an incentive to not abuse the system when 40+% of the unused sick pay is going for taxes.

    Maybe the MTA could instead pay out the days over a period of a few years during retirement to reduce the tax hit.

  • Larry Littlefield

    They are half paid, and yes that’s a nice bonus, but not one I resent. I resent the fake sick absences for full paid. Meanwhile, as I recall it’s 10 sick days, which is still a lot.

    https://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/

    You can find how much the average private sector worker gets there.

    The median vacation for private sector workers who get vacation is 10 days after on years of service, 15 days after five or ten years of service, and 20 after 15 years or more of service.

    But only 77 percent of private sector workers get vacation.

    The median number of holidays is 7, down from 8 in the past.

    But only 78 percent of workers get paid holidays.

    For those providing six days, the median number of days allowed is just 6 — after all years of service. That hasn’t changed much over the years.

    The percent of private workers with sick leave is 71 percent, UP from 63 percent not long ago. Perhaps legislation is a reason.

    “Maybe the MTA could instead pay out the days over a period of a few years during retirement to reduce the tax hit.”

    I, of course, would prefer that deferred costs be paid for when they are accrued rather than shifted to the future.

  • djx

    “On many of the jobs I used to have, even taking one day off would have
    been an automatic fire unless the boss knew in advance, approved it, and
    had someone to cover for me.”

    People talking as if that situation should be generally proper is one of the reasons we have unions.

  • djx

    “Maybe it’s time to consider paying MTA workers as independent contractors.”

    W T F.

  • Reggie

    What’s with this new Streetsblog trope where if you are a municipal worker and OUTSIDE OF WORK HOURS you do something wrong (drunk firefighter) or maybe just insensitive or callous (DEP lady in Queens), you should lose your job?

  • Joe R.

    I agree. I’ve always felt what people do during their time off is their own business unless it interferes with their job (i.e. getting so drunk that you’re still drunk when it’s time to go back to work).

  • walks bikes drives

    Most public sector jobs seem to be 10 sick days per year that are paid out at retirement or end of service at a rate of one day of pay for every 2 sick days in the bank.

    Typically, the same job in the private sector pays more than in the public or not-for-profit sectors. The giveback is better benefits, including sick days and vacation days, which are cheaper for the agencies to give rather than higher salaries. For example, a city attorney in the law department makes much less than an attorney with the same experience in private practice.

  • Joe R.

    With the trend towards more and more people being “independent contractors”, even when anyone can plainly see they should be classified as employees, my guess is the actual numbers are much lower than the official ones.

    “I, of course, would prefer that deferred costs be paid for when they are accrued rather than shifted to the future.”

    You could pay the unused sick days each year but then if a person has a long illness they don’t get paid. Of course, what should happen is that sick pay gets put into the bank each year so it’s there if/when needed. Unfortunately a lot of people won’t do that. They’ll look at it like bonus money, and spend it on stuff they don’t need.

  • 6SJ7

    Imagine the lawsuits from a city worker fired for a non-work-related incident, even a DWI.

  • 6SJ7

    While legal, protesting in front of someone’s private residence is a form of bullying. It also punishes uninvolved neighbors.

  • Andrew

    While I don’t entirely disagree, Arthur Schwartz’s shenanigans are punishing his neighbors far more than a brief protest might.

  • GuestBx

    The trash situation in NYC has been out of control This place is ridiculously dirty. A large part of the reason why is because bags are stacked on the sidewalk where people and animals rip them open.

    Containerizing it makes so much sense. Place dumpsters just off the curb on every block, on every corner, and call it a day.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Perhaps not in the case of attorneys, but overall the total compensation of public employees has increased relative to private sector employees over the decades. Excluding those at the top, the gap is large.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I don’t disagree either. Not what I would do.

  • Joe R.

    Unfortunately we’ve reached the point where the Schwartz’s of the world are out of control and we need to resort to guerilla tactics. I would be less than thrilled if people were protesting in front of my neighbor’s home for something I had nothing to do with. However, after the protest I might have a nice, long talk with my neighbor about the reason for the protest. I might also make it very clear if it happens again I’ll make his/her life miserable in so many ways. That’s really what this is. It’s a form of collective punishment where the hope is those who disagree with Schwartz but suffer the fallout will pressure him to change his ways.

    Those who started this lawsuit are selfish in ways I can’t even comprehend. That needs to get out there. I’m tired of the rich shitting all over everyone else to get their way. Maybe it needs to made clear to them that they need to take the needs of other people into consideration. This and the CPW suit (which is essentially over parking spots) are the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as I’m concerned. Their selfishness and entitlement is out there for all to see. They’re trying to get their way and go around a public process by manipulating the legal system. At this point their list of allies in the legislature is growing slim. It’s the last desperate gasp of a selfish generation that has taken everything. They need to be slapped down hard here. If Schwartz’s neighbors are briefly inconvenienced by the protest I’m sorry for them but let them know Schwartz is ultimately responsible. If he would have just accepted defeat and not appealed there would be no protest.

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