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.