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ANNOUNCEMENTS 

If your dream is to become a park ranger, now's your chance! The city is hiring 50 Urban Park Rangers to help bring fun and educational nature and wildlife programs to our parks. Plus, the hat is really cool. Apply Here >>

Local 983 is working with a Washington, D.C. law firm to recover damages for Local 983 members for overtime violations by the City. This firm has sued the City many times to recover money damages for overtime violations. Under the overtime law, each person must individually sign up to join the lawsuit. Don’t miss out!

To join, please complete the consent retainer found by Clicking Here >>

The DC 37 Brooklyn Dental Center at 186 Joralemon St. in Downtown Brooklyn closed on Tuesday, March 1. All dental services will continue from the DC 37 Dental Center, at 115 Chambers St. in lower Manhattan. The newly remodeled DC 37 Dental Center is providing members, retirees, and dependents their full-service dental needs. For more information on the DC 37 Dental Center, or to make an appointment, please call 212.766.4440.

The Student Loan Payment Pause has been Extended 

In August, President Biden announced a plan to provide one-time, pandemic-connected debt relief to more than 40 million Americans with federal student loans.

Since making the application available, more than 26 million borrowers provided the information needed to be considered for debt relief. Already, the Department of Education has approved 16 million of those applications.

But lawsuits filed by Republican elected officials and special interests are challenging the program, stopping our ability to discharge debt and accept additional applications. We are confident in our legal authority to carry out this program, which is why the Department of Justice has asked the Supreme Court to lift the lower court’s injunction against the program and suggested that if the Court does not do so, it could take up this case.


It is unfair to ask tens of millions of borrowers to resume payments on their student debt when they would be eligible for relief– if not for these lawsuits. Therefore, the pause on student loan payments and collections has been extended.

The student loan payment pause is extended until 60 days after the Department is permitted to implement the debt relief program, or the litigation is resolved. If the program has not been implemented and the litigation has not been resolved by June 30, 2023, payments will resume 60 days after that. Borrowers will be notified before payments restart.

Visit StudentAid.gov to explore more affordable repayment options, other debt forgiveness programs, and more.

QPL’s DJ Ralph McDaniels Does it for the Culture

By Diane S. Williams 
If you’ve ever given a shout out, thank Ralph McDaniels, host and creator of New York City’s most successful public television show, Video Music Box (VMB).

McDaniels, who is also known as ‘Uncle Ralph,’ is the Queens Public Library hip-hop coordinator and historian, and a member of Queens Library Guild Local 1321. He hosts live DJ vinyl sessions on Instagram and Facebook to introduce the next generation to hip-hop culture.

“We are so fortunate to have someone who is actively working to document and preserve hip-hop culture for generations to come and is committed to making our city a safer and better place to live,” said John Hyslop, president of Local 1321. “So many DC 37 members grew up with VMB, and will enjoy reading about Ralph and his contributions to our culture and city. I'm sure DC 37 members will be excited to learn that one of their idols is a fellow union member!”

Back in the day, McDaniels’ VMB, the longest running hip-hop show on TV, was the first and only show to air rap music videos. “I played videos like a DJ plays songs,” said McDaniels, who mixed hip-hop pioneers like KRS-One, Fab 5 Freddy, the Message and Queen Latifah with acts like Madonna, Steely Dan, Shaggy, Blondie, Talking Heads and other bands with New York City roots. For more than a dozen years, that unique formula kept VMB number one in the NY television market. His platform welcomed newcomers Salt-n-Pepa, Heavy D, Mary J. Blige, Biggie Smalls, Jay-Z, Richard “Crazy Legs” Colon, Queensbridge Houses’ own Nas and Roxanne Shante, and others to promote a new sound that resonated with younger audiences and generated record sales.

“A lot of music executives and radio DJs were reluctant to promote or play hip-hop,” McDaniels said. Without commercial obligations, McDaniels had the freedom to “go deeper underground” on public TV. He mined then-unknowns like Tribe Called Quest, Leaders of the New School, the Wu-Tang Clan, Eve, Onyx and DMX. He played Miami’s Luke Campbell and Too Live Crew, California rappers Ice-T, NWA, Digital Underground and Tupac alongside Bronx rappers Fat Joe and Craig Mack.

“MTV did not play Black artists, with one extraordinary exception—the King of Pop Michael Jackson,” McDaniels said. “I created something that people didn’t see due to redlining, the practice of cultural exclusion in television and media.”

The show became the blueprint and precursor for successful rap video shows like Yo! MTV Raps and BET’s Rap City. Run DMC rapper Darryl McDaniels (no relation) said, “The difference Video Music Box made was us showing us versus them showing us.”

McDaniels’ role in shaping the global phenomenon of hip-hop culture and preserving 50 years of Black music is the subject of a 2021 Showtime documentary You’re Watching Video Music Box. Directed by Grammy-nominated artist Nasir “Nas” Jones, the film culls music videos, backstage interviews and live performances from 30,000 hours of VMB tapes. It features rare footage of freestyling genius in live, onstage collaborations at events McDaniels promoted.

After then-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani pulled the plug and sold New York City’s public TV station, a conversation with Russell Simmons led McDaniels to an ‘aha’ moment. Reinventing himself as one of New York’s premiere party promoters, he took his hip-hop show into local clubs where he gave partygoers the microphone between acts to shout-out acknowledgments to loved ones on camera. Comedian Tracy Morgan was an opener who credits McDaniels for giving him his start.

McDaniels recorded the hip-hop scene of the ‘80s, ‘90s and ‘00s that exploded and flourished on the periphery of Manhattan nightlife. “In those audiences I saw something Corporate America had missed,” said McDaniels. “I saw the crossover appeal of hip-hop and rap.”

If asked the moment they fell in love with hip-hop, generations of New Yorkers would point to the ubiquitous influence of Uncle Ralph and Video Music Box. His show captured New York’s creative raw energy and took hip-hop culture from the streets of NYC worldwide, further than anyone could have imagined. The VMB microphone now rests in the Smithsonian.

Not just lyrics and beats, hip-hop culture launched a proliferation of Black entrepreneurship and wealth via tour dates, record sales and independent labels, TV and films, sports management and sports bars, energy drinks, clothing, sneaker deals and cosmetics. These business ventures rocketed Jay-Z and Rihanna to billionaire status, according to Forbes, and made multi-millionaire luminaries of Diddy, Biggie, Daymond John, 50 Cent, Dr. Dre, and other entertainers of color.

New York City, specifically the Bronx, is hip-hop’s birthplace. Five decades in, hip-hop culture— its music, art, dance styles, fashion and swag— arguably remains the biggest global influencer and brands New York City as the premiere cultural capital of the world.

The Library’s online classes with McDaniels teach everything from writing lyrics to sampling and creating beats, the foundations of hip-hop music. He helps students learn how to turn what they love into art, with help from the Keith Haring and the Amazin’ Mets foundations.

“During the pandemic I worked with the Queens Public Library to host events that connect youth and people of all ages with hip-hop culture,” said McDaniels. “I teach its history and how music is made.”

McDaniels uses the Library’s social media platform to tackle the social issues of gun violence, drugs, domestic abuse and homelessness.
“With this educational component in Queens Library, I hope to inspire future generations to look beyond their environment,” McDaniels said. “They need to realize that we are resilient. We made something from nothing. The next phase is to explore new ideas, to entertain and to make change in society, whatever that may be.”

Queens Public Library Hip-Hop Coordinator Ralph McDaniels continues to play his all-vinyl DJ sets on Instagram @qplnyc and @videomusicbox, with live streams every Tuesday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m.  

All Bets are Off:

NYC Cracks Down on
Casino-like Gaming in Chinatown Park

Oct. 25, 2022 - nypost.com
All bets are off in this Chinatown park.

City officials busted up an outdoor “casino” in Lower Manhattan’s Columbus Park over the weekend — just as The Post revealed the illegal big-bucks card games going on there.

The open-air gaming — which drew in hundreds of middle-aged and elderly bettors at a time — was dismantled by the NYPD and the city’s Parks Department on Saturday afternoon. Read More >>

A Son of Queens, New York, Teaches His Community About the Natural World

Article by Pete Levine - Photo by Ranger Shantel Mena
Oct. 17, 2022
- afscme.org
Ask most people what they think of when they think of a park ranger, and you’ll probably get a romantic image of a lone figure perched high above a Western vista, scanning for smoke.

But just as our wildernesses need trained professionals to safeguard them and engage the patrons who visit them, so do our cities’ parks. And those professionals – like urban park ranger and AFSCME Never Quit Service Award winner Harry Aguilar – bring their own unique set of skills to the job.

About a year ago, 26-year-old Aguilar was hired alongside fellow Local 983 (DC 37) member Salvatore Asaro as part of a new cohort of New York City urban park rangers.

Assigned to the borough of Queens, Asaro quickly noticed that Aguilar brought something special to the role, particularly when it came to connecting with the public. Read More >>

AFSCME honored Harry Aguilar with the Never Quit Service Award. Watch the Video >>

Student Loan Debt Relief Application Preview

This week the Biden-Harris Administration previewed
the Student Loan Debt Relief application form. Here’s what you need to know: The application will be available later this month.

  • It’s short, simple, and will be available online at a .gov URL.

  • You don’t need to log in or provide any documents to apply.

  • Federal Student Aid will reach out directly once you’ve submitted your application if you need to provide additional information.

  • You will be able to fill out the application on both mobile and desktop devices.

    View application preview HERE >>

NY Assembly Maps to be Redrawn by Dysfunctional Redistricting Commission

New lines will go into effect for the 2024
election cycle.

Sept. 29, 2022 - cityandstateny.com
Not to be one-upped by the devolving New York City redistricting process, a new chapter in the ongoing statewide redistricting saga just got published. A state Supreme Court judge has ruled that the dysfunctional Independent Redistricting Commission must get the band back together to submit new Assembly lines by April 2023 that will be in place for the 2024 cycle. In a way, the state is right back where it started. Read More >>

Tier 6 Pension Changes

The 2022 New York State Budget Bill was signed into law by Governor Hochul on April 9, 2022. Within Chapter 56 of this bill, three parts (Part HH, Part SS and Part TT) amend NYS Retirement and Social Security Law (RSSL), and impact certain NYCERS members and retirees. Read More >>

What is the World Trade Center Presumption Law?

The World Trade Center Presumption Law provides a presumption to eligible NYSLRS members and retirees who become permanently disabled and are unable to do their jobs due to certain conditions, that they can claim their permanent disabilities are the result of participation in World Trade Center rescue, recovery or cleanup operations. The presumption will apply unless it’s proven the condition was the result of other factors.

If you meet the eligibility requirements, the presumption allows you to:

File for an accidental disability retirement in the future;

Have an existing disability retirement benefit reclassified as an accidental disability retirement benefit; or

Leave your beneficiaries an accidental death benefit.

Your disability or death must be due to one of the qualifying conditions specified in the law.

Who should file?

You must file an Application for World Trade Center Notice (RS6047-N) prior to submitting an Application for World Trade Center Accidental Disability Presumption (RS6047-W). Even if you do not currently suffer one of the qualifying conditions, filing this notice will protect your right — and the right of your beneficiaries — to apply for benefits in the future.

Once you file a notice with NYSLRS, there is no subsequent deadline to file for an accidental disability retirement or retirement reclassification should the need arise.

For more information, Click Here >> 

By Diane S. Williams
DC 37 Saves 200 Parks CSA Jobs As Layoff Rumors Fly

DC 37 saved Parks Department workers’ jobs that were rumored to end July 1 when Parks managers erroneously terminated City Seasonal Aides despite a no-layoff pledge from Mayor Eric Adams.

“The union had a ‘handshake’ deal with the City Council and the mayor to save the 200 Parks jobs as part of the budget agreement,” said Joe Puleo, Local 983 president and DC 37 Parks Committee co-chair. “But it’s obvious Parks managers didn’t bother to read the memo.”

City Seasonal Aide Danielle Green was told by her Parks supervisor on June 30 at 5 p.m. that she was being let go. She was not alone. Word spread to 200 CSAs that they were fired effective July 1.

“It was devastating. How am I going to pay my rent?” Green asked Marlena Giga, an Urban Park Ranger and Local 983 treasurer.

The Parks management snafu had union phones ringing and City Hall officials scrambling to correct a problem that left the CSAs hired in 2021 wondering if they still had jobs.

The DC 37 Parks Committee negotiated with the City to fund CSAs’
salaries with money from the federal American Rescue Plan for COVID-19 pandemic relief.

“We were promised during the budget negotiation process by the Mayor’s Office and the Speaker’s Office that none of these people would be laid off,” Puleo said. “These Parks workers do the basic clean-up operation for minimum wage. The jobs can be hard to fill because people can earn better wages working in fast food, or at Starbucks, or Target.”

“When I thought I was laid off, I was very confused and frustrated,” said Local 983 member Steve Guarino who works at Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. “This job is my only income. I’ve worked here for a year. We thought our jobs were extended but management said we were laid off. It was very stressful.”

DC 37 worked closely with New York City Council Member Shekar
Krishnan, chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee, and Play Fair parks advocates behind the scenes and at City Hall rallies to win a historic increase of $624 million for Parks, including 715 new permanent positions in FY 2023 city budget.

“We thought it was a go and the members’ jobs were safe,” Puleo said. Until they weren’t.

Answering a flood of calls from panicked CSAs, Puleo called DC 37
Executive Director Henry Garrido, who in turn called Krishnan. They
worked through the night to make sure the 200 Parks CSAs remained working.

“Henry Garrido’s intervention helped save the CSA jobs through Sept. 15,” Puleo said. “Without the CSAs to clean, public parks would return to the early pandemic conditions with mounds of garbage piled seven-feet high, playgrounds littered with broken glass and needles, and filthy restrooms.”

“When I heard the union saved our jobs, I was so relieved,” Guarino said. “It was unsettling to have workers’ livelihoods hang in limbo due to miscommunication between the Administration, Parks brass, and its management,” Garrido said. “These workers are single parents and people who found themselves jobless during the pandemic. Now they are the backbone of Parks’ unionized workforce, who beautify city parks and greenspaces. Their jobs are a part of the lifeline that fuels the city’s economic recovery.”

“We’re working to protect these members’ jobs beyond the summer,” Puleo added. “We’re strategizing with trades unions to expand these members’ skills and opportunities.”

As PEPTalk went to press, Local 983 and DC 37 leaders were in ongoing negotiations with the Parks Department to save CSAs’ jobs.

Updates on Student Loan Forgiveness

Biden Cancels Up to $20K in Student Loan Debt and Extends Forbearance to Jan. 1, 2023

President Joe Biden announced on Aug. 24 an income-based student debt relief program that forgives up to $20,000 in student loan debt. He also extended the CARES Act student loan forbearance through Jan. 1, 2023.

The U.S. Department of Education will forgive up to $20,000 in outstanding student debt for borrowers who received Pell Grants and up to $10,000 in student debt for those who did not receive Pell Grants. Loan forgiveness will not be treated as taxable income.

Individuals who earn less than $125,000 and couples who earn up to $250,000, in years 2020 and 2021 only, qualify for student debt relief. The U.S. Department of Education has income information on file for about 8 million borrowers who may qualify to have their college debts canceled automatically. Other borrowers will have to apply using a new, simplified application that is in development.

Students currently enrolled in college who have student loans and parents with Parent PLUS loans are eligible to apply for student debt forgiveness.

Borrowers with outstanding undergraduate loans can apply to cap their student loan payments at 5 percent of their monthly income.

The Department of Education’s website should be ready to accept applications for student debt relief in December 2022.

The pause on direct student loan payments, interest accrual and collection activity on direct student loans in default will remain in place through Jan. 1, 2023, when payments will resume. The administration indicated this would be the final payment pause extension. 

NYS Helps Public Employees with Federal Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness Program

Gov. Kathy Hochul recently signed legislation to expand and simplify public employee access to the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. The law establishes uniformity around what qualifies as full-time employment for the purposes of accessing PSLF and allows public service employers to certify employment on behalf of workers.

PSLF is a federal program that incentivizes public service work by canceling a portion of borrowers' federal student loans. The program requires borrowers to be full-time employees of an eligible public service employer and make 120 qualifying payments towards their student loan, after which the remainder of their federal student loan debt is forgiven. Any student loan debt that is forgiven under this program will not be subject to tax under New York State tax law.

The new law (Chapter 562) addresses barriers to accessing PSLF by:

Clarifying the legal definitions of key terms such as, "certifying employment," "employee," "full-time," "public service employer," "public service loan forgiveness form," and "Public service loan forgiveness program;"

Setting a standard hourly threshold for full-time employment at 30 hours per week for the purposes of accessing PSLF and clarifying standardized prep time to be included in such calculation for faculty and teachers; and

Allowing public service employers to certify employment on behalf of individuals or groups of employees directly with the U.S. Department of Education.

If you have student loan debt, please contact Local DC 37 MELS for assistance.

New York City's Public Sector Unions are Stuck in Limbo
Medicare Advantage has stalled labor contract renewal negotiations. 


Sept. 7, 2022
- cityandstateny.com
The thorny issue of how New York City provides its nearly 250,000 retired civil servants with health care is shaping up to be a major impediment for contract negotiations getting underway with dozens of unions that represent the city’s roughly 300,000 employees.

“I think I was one of the first unions to reach out to City Hall to try and start negotiations for the next round of bargaining to get detectives their well-deserved increase in salary but the Medicare Advantage situation is holding everything up up because it could have a devastating effect on both our active and retired members,” Paul DiGiacomo, president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, told City & State. “My strategic analysis is if I settle a contract now and get 3%, 4%, 5% over five years, whatever it may be, and then the health care costs come back and they say we have to contribute 3%, 4% or 5%, where’s the raise?” Read More >>

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Launches New 3-digit Number: 988

July 16, 2022 - cnn.com
By dialing only three numbers, anyone can now reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for mental health crises. On June 16, 2022, the nonprofit that operates the lifeline on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration launched the 988 dialing code available to everyone across the United States. Read More >>

Pressure Mounts on City to Come Clean with 9/11 WTC Files

July 12, 2022 - laborpress.org
A 2003 EPA Inspector General report held the EPA accountable for mischaracterizing the air quality in lower Manhattan as "safe to breathe." A growing coalition of unions and survivors say it's time for the City of New York to come clean with what then Mayor Rudy Giuliani knew and when he knew it about the toxic air that has killed thousands and sickened tens of thousands. Read More >>

“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.

July 1, 2022 - laborpress.org
The first person that Victoria Cooley, 34, a seasonal aid with the New York City Parks Department, called when she was told this week that June 30 was her last day was Joe Puleo, president of DC 37’s Local 983, which represents her and several thousand blue collar as well as skilled trades workers that work for the city.

During a phone interview, Puleo told LaborPress Cooley was one of 200 entry level workers that were slated to be terminated at the end of the fiscal year before July 1. 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 that were temporary. Read More >>

Keep the Pressure On: Sign the 1% for  Parks Petition

Our #1Percent4Parks budget petition has more than 4,000 signatures and counting—more than any petition in our organization's history. We're sending a clear message to the Mayor and City Council and keeping parks in the conversation. If you haven't done so already, we urge you to sign and share. If you have, thank you—please consider sharing again!

NEW UPDATE to The NYC Medicare Advantage Plus Plan

Judge Orders City to Delay Retiree Health Care Switch Until April 1
A decision was issued Dec. 14 by Judge Frank that allows the Medicare Advantage Plan to go forward effective April 1, 2022. If you take no action, you will be placed into the Medicare Advantage Plus Program. If you wish to stay in your current plan, you have until March 31, 2022, to opt out. If you decide to go into the Medicare Advantage Plus Program and then change your mind, you will have the option of opting out until June 30, 2022.

As part of his decision, Judge Frank ordered that retirees not be responsible for possible multiple deductibles that occur by being in one plan for the first part of the year and then in the Medicare Advantage plan for the balance.

You should receive a new letter before January 7, 2022, from the New York City Office of Labor Relations containing a list of the corrections and additions made to the previously sent Enrollment Guide. As more information becomes available, we will of course keep you informed.
 Read More >>
 

T

The NYC Medicare
Advantage Plus Plan (PPO)
 

The NYC Medicare Advantage Plus Plan (PPO) includes many health resources and benefits that Original Medicare does not offer, like:

A $0 copay for an Annual Wellness visit. National Access Plus, which allows you to see any doctor or hospital who accepts Medicare. You’re not tied to a provider network, and you pay the same copay or coinsurance percentage whether you provider is in- or out-of-network. Access to SilverSneakers, LiveHealth Online and Special Offers from partners. For more information, call the NYC Medicare Advantage Plus call center at 833.325.1190. 

DC 37 News & Updates

Juneteenth will be a paid city holiday for New York City workers beginning this year.
Juneteenth is recognized as the effective end of slavery in the United States and is considered as the longest-running African American holiday. It became a federal holiday on June 17, 2021, becoming the 12th federal holiday and first new one since Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

As Juneteenth falls on a Sunday, city employees will be provided a paid holiday on Monday, June 20.

NEW LABOR LEADERSHIP PROGRAM at CUNY


DC 37 and the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies have expanded their educational partnership to include four new college-level programs in labor studies. The DC 37 Education Fund will provide tuition assistance to active DC 37 members who enroll in the labor studies program to earn the undergraduate certificate in labor relations; bachelor's degree in urban studies; graduate certificate in labor relations, or master’s degree in labor studies. Apply today at www.dc37edfund.org/cunyslu. For more information, please call 212.815.1700

CDC Federal Eviction Moratorium

The U.S. Supreme Court has recently invalidated the CDC Federal Eviction Moratorium. This means that tenants who filed a hardship declaration form under the federal CDC provision are no longer protected under that provision.

Tenants who owe rent or are facing an eviction case should not give up and move out. There are still many steps landlords must take to proceed with an eviction and there are still many ways tenants can defend their homes. MELS can help. Call the MELS Screening Unit at 212.815.1111 for advice and legal representation. 

Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP)

New York State’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance is accepting applications to help tenants pay rent arrears. The Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) can provide up to 15 months of rent and up to 12 months of gas and electric utility arrears.

Tenants who apply for ERAP are protected from eviction while the application is processed. Apply for ERAP here: on.ny.gov/2WE2CKY. If you have questions or need assistance, call the MELS Screening Unit at 212.815.1111

Health

COVID-19 Workers' Comp and Short-Term Disability Benefits

DC 37 urges members who believe they have contracted coronavirus in the line of duty to apply for New York State Workers’ Compensation. For a list of Workers' Comp lawyers click here: https://bit.ly/3f1wK8z. Additionally, DC 37 Health & Security short-term disability benefits may be available for members who have filed Workers’ Comp claims. For more information click here: http://bit.ly/3ptCdt0

FEMA COVID-19 Burial Relief

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) burial relief program is accepting applications. The maximum amount of financial aid available is $9,000 per funeral up to $35,500 per application with multiple COVID-19 decedents. FEMA federal funeral assistance can be used to help with expenses for funeral services held in 2020 for COVID-19 deaths, interment or cremation. Call the FEMA hotline: 844.684.6333 (TTY: 800.462.7585), 8 AM to 8 PM Central Time (7 AM to 7 PM EST), Monday through Friday. For additional burial assistance programs, please visit: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/hra/help/burial-assistance.page.             

Education

AFSCME Free 4-Year College

The AFSCME free 4-year college program has been extended for good. This can be combined with the Free College program, under which AFSCME members and their immediate family can earn associate degrees for free. This means members of the AFSCME family can go to college for free from anywhere in the country. All they need is a computer and an internet connection. For more information visit: https://freecollege.afscme.org/ 

 



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