Bloomberg freezes hiring amid Senate impasse

July 6, 2009 3:41:40 PM PDT
The stalemate in the New York Senate has forced a hiring freeze in New York City. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he was imposing an immediate hiring freeze to ensure the City meets its legal obligation to maintain a balanced budget, while the State Senate remains unable to act on any legislation.

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The freeze includes 250 Police Recruits, firefighters, school safety agents, 911 and 311 call takers, and EMTs:

150 Firefighters
151 Traffic Agents
34 Emergency 911 Operators
175 School Safety Agents
150 School Crossing Guards
90 Emergency Medical Technicians
20 3-1-1 Operators

"I urge Senators in both parties to put aside their political differences and approve the City's revenue plan so we can move forward with providing the core services that New Yorkers rely on," Mayor Bloomberg said.

This Wednesday, 250 cadets were set to launch a new career at the police academy. They won't now because of the chaos in Albany.

The mayor says he had to make a decision and couldn't wait any longer on a senate that remains deadlocked, refusing to vote yeah or nay on bills that affect the city budget.

"You try to explain to people we're going to pick a date, by x-date this is what happens. If the day after that you change your mind, it's too late. You know Albany never seems to understand deadlines," Bloomberg said.

The mayor had hoped by now Albany would have approved a half-penny sales tax hike, generating 60-million a month for the city.

Since that hasn't happened, the mayor ordered the hiring freeze and ordered a review of all City contracts so the City does not enter into non-essential obligations. Contracts under review include the entire universe of City contracts with independent agencies that provide services to the public.

"I wish we were bluffing. I wish we had enough resources to be bluffing. We're not bluffing," City Council Speaker Chris Quinn said.

City officials are worried more cuts considered earlier this year, such as library cuts, could return.

Perhaps fire company closings could be back. Phil DePaolo fought to keep Engine 212 open in Brooklyn years ago. He's afraid up to 16 companies could be closed next year.

"Every council member has basically told me next year all these engine companies are going to be back on the table because we're running 30 or 35 percent behind in our tax receipts for this year," Phil dePaolo said.

One idea was broached to get the senate back to work. The governor would appoint a new lieutenant governor. He or she could then break the 31-31 tie.

"As you know one of the biggest squabbles is they're fighting over who holds the gavel and who would preside over the Senate," Rep. Mike Gianaris said.

But Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said the idea is not constitutional. He points to a part of the New York constitution that reads "the lt. Governor shall be chosen at the same time and for the same term as the governor."

The senate must approve new tax measures that were included in the city's budget for fiscal year 2010, which began July 1.

If the State Senate is unable to act on the revenue package this year, the City stands to lose nearly $900 million.