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Union Workers March Peekskill City Hall; Sound Off on Proposed Layoffs

Hundreds of municipal union worker and community members marched Peekskill city hall Tuesday in response to the layoffs being considered in next year's municipal budget.

Everyone that marched through Peekskill city hall Tuesday has a legitimate stake in what happens with next year’s municipal budget.

Some people were there because they knew a person whose job would be cut in acting City Manager Brian Havranek’s  $35.6 million budget proposal for next year. The proposal would cut 31 full-time jobs, seven which are currently vacant, and nine part-time jobs in the city.

There were some who participated because they feared what the cuts would do the police department’s ability to fight crime and the fire department’s ability to answer emergency calls. Others feared what the elimination of two jobs at the Kiley Youth Center would do to the facility’s operations.

Kevin Ferris, a firefighter with the Peekskill fire department, had more immediate and tangible concerns. He and his wife recently purchased a house and they have a kid on the way. Ferris found out last week that he would be one of the firefighters whose job will be slashed under Havranek’s plan.

“What am I supposed to do.....I didn’t create this problem and neither did anyone else in this room,” Ferris said as he addressed the  common council. “It’s up to you to step up.”

At least 200 people gathered in front of the Michael J. DiBart Neighborhood Center on Nelson, marched in to Peekskill city hall and attended Tuesday’s common council meeting. Members of the police, firefighters and city workers unions wore bright red shirts in a show of solidarity.

Havranek’s proposal, which was released earlier this month, would slash 15 administrative positions, 10 public safety positions and six positions in the department of public works. The cuts are expected to save the city, which is facing a gap of about $5 million in this year's budget, a little more than $3 million.

Carl DeMarco, president of the Peekskill Police Benevolent Association, said the cuts will have a detrimental effect on a department that has already been depleted the past few years.

“If these cuts go through, we’re looking at the smallest police department that Peekskill has had in the last 25 years,” DeMarco said. “In the past 25 years, this department will be at its smallest and it doesn’t make sense considering how everything has grown in this community, that we’ve gotten to this point in 2012.”

Demarco said at least three police officers, along with civilian staff and community service officers, will go under the budget proposal.

“They have inflated numbers where they tell everyone we’re at 70 people,” DeMarco said. “We’re at 57 cops and they’re looking to put us down to 54.”

Gary Horne, president of Peekskill Firefighter Association Local 2343, said at least two firefighters could lose their jobs.

Horne blamed mismanagement by city officials for the budget situation.

“There’s been mismanagement in the handling if the central firehouse project,” Horne said. “We think that doesn’t have to happen right now. If you’re laying off people then you don’t need to build something like that. We don’t need to put that tax burden on to people.”

Louis Picani of  Teamsters Local 456, which represents the city’s blue and white collar workers, said the unit could lose 19 jobs. He told city Mayor Mary Foster that the job cuts would impact everything from trash collection to public safety.

He also said the common council did not reach out to union members to discuss what can be done to ease the budget situation.

Mayor Foster told Picani that the common council has scheduled five budget workshops and is in the process of meeting with department heads.

“We have not voted on anything yet,” Foster said. “We’re trying to understand the details of what’s been presented and what the impact will be on the delivery of services. I know the city manager is always willing to sit down with you and other labor leaders at any time.”

Picani said the union isn’t going to back down.

“We live here, we work here and we vote here,” Picani said. “Our vote is going to count.”

James McNair, a Peekskill resident, said he had a problem with the proposed cuts to two youth workers at the center.  He said the move was made without consulting any of the volunteers, the kids who use the center, any studies or site visits.

He said many of the kids who go to the Kiley center are in need of guidance.

“You see all these red shirts in this building?” McNair said. “These red shirts are men and women from the City of Peekskill that are standing up for their jobs. But in other cities, these red shirts represent Crips, Bloods, being a gang member. You see that we don’t have that problem.”

A public hearing for the budget is scheduled for Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m. The common council must approve a final budget by Dec. 1.

The Peekskill Common Council’s next budget workshop is scheduled for Wednesday, at 7 p.m.

Ray Adamick October 10, 2012 at 10:26 AM
Power to the people, power of the spoken word!
Ray Adamick October 10, 2012 at 10:30 AM
Great night!
sayitsnotsojack October 10, 2012 at 12:46 PM
It is time for these union members to wake up to the reality of today, maybe they get gas for free but I am paying more than $4,00 a gallon which is why because of their outrageous pension and health plans I can barely afford fuel, food, and the other necessities for my family and am behind in my taxes. Time has come to cut to the bone, and while we are at it, stop all the never ending giving of subsidized housing that makes Peekskill the subsidized housing capital of Westchester. The shirts that were worn said “Not on my Back” well union members that goes ten fold for me the taxpayer.
George in NY October 10, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Well as a resident homeowner NOT behind in my taxes I do not want these cuts, especially to emergency services to take place. I have no agenda in this, no relatives that are workers in City, etc, other than knowing that Police and Fire protection is about the only thing this City has done right for whatever reason. I say more cops and more firefighters. It's not the City DPW etc either that bleed City resources unnecessarily. They at least provide tangible results we all see everyday unlike whatever today's revitalization plans and subsidized housing etc costs us.
Leslie Lawler October 10, 2012 at 02:23 PM
I agree with you, George. This Council has put raising taxes and cutting services via layoffs on the table, but they've made no consideration towards their out-of-control spending on ridiculous items like consultants for studying space in City Hall. I, like you, are a resident homeowner and do not want my taxes paying for the eogtistical whims of this Council like survey consultants and charettes. I want the police, fire and DPW force to remain in tact to ensure homeowners quality of life in all neighborhoods. I want the tax dollars invested back into fixing failing infrastructure (how many water pipe breaks are we up to??) and paving the roads. This Council has made poor, if not negligent, fiscal decisions since day one, spending on consultants and ridiculous whims that provide no benefit to the city other than to gain momentary media attention for themselves. Pensions are a fact of municipal life. For them to feign ignorance is insulting to the taxpayers.
sayitsnotsojack October 10, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Thank your lucky stars you are have not lost your job as I have. If so you might not be so willing to spend, and spend other peoples money including yours. There are plenty of places to cut and over staffing is one of them. What people are left must be made to be as productive as possible which is not always the case now.
RK October 10, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Is there something wrong with you sayitsnotsojack? The city has been aware for YEARS that Albany was raising municipalities share of pension costs - but, instead of planning for the inevitable while they wait for Albany to fix the pension system, they spent the reserve money on everything from charrettes to contaminated land. City workers went the civil service route because of the promise of good benefits and security - to make it sound as if they are greedy f***s is ignorant. Each one of us, city workers, residents, business owners, etc, have to pay the same amount of money for gas and taxes as you - we are all in this - so stop trying to make it sound like us against them. What are they going to do for 2014 when there is no one left to cut? The city is sitting on a multi-million dollar reserve for this firehouse while they cut the city to the bone - makes no sense - and don't tell me they can't use that money for anything else. All they need is to vote on it.
United Workers for America October 10, 2012 at 03:56 PM
I dont know where you get that union members get gas for free, and talk about a totally irrevelant statement. I just ask one favor from you "sayitsnotsojack" make sense when you write something. Those union members did not mention one word about rasining taxes for anyone, they just asked for the city to be more fiscally responsible for the situation that they are in. They created this mess, just like you and I, we budget for our expenditures and they did not! The Mayor has spent millions on projects that the City does not need or want and has spent the money in the reserve fund on everything other then what it was designed for. So when she tries to make up a deficit that she created on the backs of the employees, its not fair. And when you and your friends walk around downtown, and there is garbage on the ground, people drinking and pissing on the streets dont blame anyone but the Mayor.
Teleman October 10, 2012 at 06:06 PM
One of the things mentioned in the council meeting was a firefighter who is eligible for regular retirement, but is trying to get a disability retirement and was rejected- but he is still trying to get it-of course of he gets the disability retirement he csn further screw the taxpayer by retiring with full salary- if this individual reitires, he would save the job of a young firefighter. This is right?
sayitsnotsojack October 10, 2012 at 06:14 PM
No I am blaming you and your over pensioned buddies for not doing their jobs. If you could read and understand the written word you would see that I did not say they get their gas for free as I was making the statement that in these difficult and costly times unions members have to realize they have no lock on jobs, or wages. In addition, the city is being more responsible by getting rid non-essential overhead, which includes members of your union and possibly you! Why don’t you all quit and see how fast your will be replaced.
joshua tanner October 10, 2012 at 06:42 PM
A lot of Peekskill workers work very hard. I wouldn't want to do all the things some of them have to. Its also true though that if you look at any state or city in financial trouble and unions are in the middle of it. Trash collectors want to be paid like teachers, teachers want to be paid like lawyers, lawyers want to be rock or tv stars. Too many people have overly generous estimations of what they are worth and what is fair. People want to work for 25 years and then retire in their 50s with a huge pension for the next 30 years. Many don't care if it bankrupts others. Not long ago 95% of LIRR retirees were found to be collecting disability. It was a racket the vast majority were participating in. No doubt they felt "entitled". Seniors should not have to worry about food and rent because they have to pay a fortune in taxes to support workers who feel entitled to make millions in retirement on the backs of people who can't afford the cupcake deals the pols and unions made with each other over the last decade and half.
Ded Yorick October 10, 2012 at 06:42 PM
James McNair gave a good presentation at the meeting. I was impressed by him. I was also glad he brought up the issue of the Paramount. They pay $1 in annual rent and they still can't make it work? Who are these incompetents in charge? Oh, right. Nuff sed. Corruption will out. Glad James' show will be on in Tarrytown. Aside from McGowan, are the other councilmembers mute? Rigger looks like a ventriloquist's dummy up there. Oh, right. Nuff zed.
peekskillman October 10, 2012 at 07:02 PM
well now we have heard from the professionals, they are not in favor of this new firehouse at this time. These are the men who live, sleep, eat and work out of the firestations, so they should know how out of touch this building is given the fiscal climate. I dont belive that the mayor should be able to separate job cuts from the new station. The resources and effort going into this project should be better put to use to save jobs. BTW, sayitsnotso, you are confusing the career firemen with the volunteer firemen, the volunteer chiefs are the ones who get free cars and gas, and are able to use these city cars as their own personal vehicles. This is common knowledge. Since the mayor wants to get a handle on fuel expenses (her words at the budget session) then maybe these are some of the perks that need to be removed trim waste.My heart goes out to all who are in danger of losing their livelihoods.
The Truth October 10, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Mr. Sayitanitsojack, it sounds to me that you are just incredibly jealous that you were laid off from your job, and want to point the finger at the ones who still have one. But the funny part is, you had every opportunity just like the next guy to have a Union job or a civil service job. You decided to take the job you "had" when times were good and now that they are not, you wanna be angry at everyone else. The truth of the matter is that the City is to blame, not anyone else or the pension system. If you anything, the State has created new tiers which pay into the system for their entirety of their career. And if you spent your time looking for a job instead of being a professional blogger, and being angry at people with jobs you would probably be working now.
Walden Macnair October 10, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Once again Patch has managed, not through any desire on their part to reduce this debate to an us against them mentality. These workers that are facing losing their jobs are not them. They are all of us. We cannot afford to cut critical services like Police, Fire and Sanitation. This was not only a failure of Foster but a failure of Testa as well. This is the result of years of mismanagement and ignoring the warning signs that this was coming. So let's put the political agenda aside and come up with a plan to survive this crisis.
sayitsnotsojack October 11, 2012 at 01:24 PM
You would not know the truth if it hit you in the face. There are example after example of union and civil service workers being so unproductive there is not enough shelving in the library to place the books written about it. Yes the city must take a lot of blame for the fiscal mess, but greedy unions and their members are in lock step with them for the blame. You are the angry one who will not admit the truth.
sayitsnotsojack October 11, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Sir my statement about free gasoline was and has been misinterpreted; it was meant to demonstrate that the average taxpayer who I am is experiencing extreme financial hardships. To have unions demonstrate that their members are above being part of the problem and should not take some of the blame for the burden is absurd. I will be the first to join them in saying the city has and is not being run soundly, but public employees have become way too self serving. The city can start with the cutting the building inspector who approved the Meth. clinic.
Jimmy Mac October 11, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Him as well as the comptroller, we has no idea where any of the money goes or how we have gotten to this point either.
TO THE POINT October 13, 2012 at 04:50 PM
I agree with you truth!Mr.sayitsnotsojack those union workers you talk about pay the same price for gas and food as you do, some even more taxes then you do and from what i hear don't even get the cost of living increase when it comes to contracts.when you took your job you probably laughed and spit on civil service jobs and the unions,but know your out of work and you need someone to blame you look at union or blue collar workers.I feel for anyone out of work or lost their jobs but that does not give you the right to wish it on other people with families that can hopefully pay their taxes on time!you should think before you speak and stop thinking your better than everyone else. Go ask foster for a job she loves to hire people like you!!!
sayitsnotsojack October 15, 2012 at 12:59 PM
You and your union friends should if you can read instead of printing up shirts read up on the current problems in Europe, which is run, by unions and their members. They have taken for years on end and are in panic like you and the unions that the constant bleeding of the cash cow that was public funding is now dead.
RK October 15, 2012 at 01:36 PM
sayitsnotsojack - you are certainly an angry child, aren't you. What makes you so bitter? If you truly lost your job as you say you did, then you should be trying to help those on the brink of losing their jobs as you know so well how devastating it is. As for unions and Europe, unions were put in place to insure workers were treated fairly - you should know that. When times are good, gov'ts have historically given the unions what they want and no one says a word. Why don't you go do something positive to lift your mood - the unions aren't going anywhere so get over it. Oh, and by the way, like I said before - Mary and the council were well aware the pension costs were going to keep rising - tell me what she did as far as planning for this other than putting aside millions of dollars for her monument to herself.
TO THE POINT October 15, 2012 at 08:52 PM
I read the same article as you in USA Today it also said the euro is at an all time high compared to the dollar.maybe you should live there and they have a higher union job percentage than the U.S so you might have to get a union job.sorry (sayitsnotsojack) please stop being so mad at those with jobs and stop trying to get people fired and help yourself! RK I'm with you
White Rice October 22, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Can anyone else confirm why this fireman was rejected for disability retirement but is still receiving disability benefits from the city? Jenga, this sounds like something that was passed right over...any other details?

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