Firefighters, officers to de Blasio: ‘We need a better disability plan’

Stephon Johnson | 6/11/2015, 11 a.m.
Wednesday afternoon, over 1,000 New York City firefighters and police officers made their way to Albany, N.Y., to rally in ...
Black FDNY firefighters

Wednesday afternoon, over 1,000 New York City firefighters and police officers made their way to Albany, N.Y., to rally in front of the New York Capitol. The group wants “real” disability protections for firefighters and officers permanently disabled in the line of duty.

Members of the FDNY and the NYPD want state legislators to pass a law granting disability protections regardless of the date they were hired. In June 2009, then New York Gov. David Paterson vetoed the New York City Firefighter and Police Tier II pension and disability protections, affecting future FDNY and NYPD hires. A court order froze FDNY hiring between June 2009 and December 2012, but since January 2013, 1,400 new firefighters have joined the ranks. Under the current policy, if any firefighter hired by the FDNY since January 2013 is seriously injured on the job, the approximate value of the disability protection amounts to $27 a day—a number based on a probationary (rookie) firefighter’s salary.

A restoration of the disability pension would include a pension that’s 75 percent of final average salary, not reduced by any Social Security disability benefits, protection for New York City’s emergency responders for more than 40 years, presumptive protection from stroke, heart attacks and cancer, currently provided to every other police officer and firefighter in New York.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito have blocked legislation for more than one year now. However, the workers said that they have support from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

While claiming that de Blasio and Mark-Viverito have blocked their calls for restoring the old plan, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and the United Firefighters Association delivered a joint letter to City Council members. They asked the Council members to disregard de Blasio’s disability proposal and pass a home rule measure in support of benefits that every other firefighters and police officer outside of New York City gets in the state.

“It is clear that sufficient support exists to pass a home rule resolution to correct the unjust and dangerous disparity if one is brought for a vote,” read the letter signed by PBA President Pat Lynch and UFA President Stephen Cassidy. “But you must act quickly if we are to correct this injustice before the state Legislature adjourns in June.”

They said de Blasio’s proposal “was fashioned without any input from the PBA and UFA and would not provide equal disability benefits, and may in fact worsen the inequality. The administration’s proposal is not only unjust, but illogical, hurting the very heroes it claims to help … and in many cases actually reducing protections for police officers and firefighters seriously injured in the line of duty.

“This is clearly inconsistent with the progressive values professed by the administration and the Council,” the letter stated. In April, Cassidy told the AmNews that with the city championing 50 percent of the 1,400 new hires being Black, Latino, Asian and female, they should also honor that diversity by giving them the same type of pension that he, as a white male, possesses.