Mayor Bill de Blasio and the nearly 500 employees dedicated to his office will take one week of unpaid leave as the Big Apple desperately tries to shore up its balance sheet amid a new bid for budget aid.
The mandatory furloughs are expected to save less than $1 million but may build pressure on the city’s labor unions to come to terms with City Hall on the $1 billion in cuts de Blasio needs to balance his 2021 budget.
It also comes as de Blasio has struggled to convince President Trump and lawmakers in Washington to provide federal aid for the Big Apple’s coronavirus-caused budget crunch — or to convince Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers in Albany to provide the emergency borrowing authority to balance the books if help from the feds doesn’t arrive.
“It is with pain that I say they and their families will lose a week’s pay, but it’s something they have to do, it’s something I have to do,” de Blasio told reporters during his daily press briefing Wednesday.
“It was not a decision I made lightly,” he added. “It is the right thing to do at this moment in history.”
De Blasio’s press secretary Bill Neidhardt announced the decision in a statement to The New York Times and described the move as “a significant gesture that reasserts City Hall recognizes the sacrifices that will have to be made across the board if we don’t get a stimulus or borrowing.”
The furloughs must be taken between October and March.
American steps up when passenger has meltdown on Korean Air flight
The Korean Air flight attendants might have been small, but they were mighty in bringing down a violent passenger — with a little help from a 6-foot-tall American.
On the final leg of a Seoul-to-Seattle jaunt, a man in business class put a clear plastic bag over his head, pulled out a sharp hairpin and started screaming that he had a bomb and wanted to go to Vancouver, BC, because he had never been there before, the Seattle Times reported, citing court documents.
Then, the man darted around the cabin, still yelling in both English and Korean. The flight attendants pulled out Tasers, but couldn’t stop him. He charged the cockpit, pounding on the door and jerking on the handle.
During the commotion, Gene Parente leaped out of his seat to offer an assist. “It’s your worst post-9/11 nightmare,“ he told the outlet.
Parente and the man traded a few punches, then two reserve pilots showed up. “It was total madness,” he said.
The trio managed to wrestle the man — about the same size as Parente — to the floor. They put giant zip ties on the man and sat on him for about 45 minutes, until the plane landed.
FBI agents were there to greet the suspect — Gyeong Jei Lee, a Korean native who now lives in Colorado — when he stepped on the ground in Seattle. Now, he is facing federal charges of interference with a flight crew and assault on an aircraft.
Madeleine McCann body not needed for arraignment
A German prosecutor said they do not need the body of missing preschooler Madeleine McCann to prosecute the convicted pedophile they believe killed the British girl.
Prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters told a Portuguese reporter for the RTP network on Friday that “to indict someone we don’t need a body.”
The assertion led to speculation that German authorities are poised to charge Christian Brueckner, a 43-year-old convicted pedophile and rapist, in the death of McCann, who disappeared from a Portuguese resort in May 2007.
“A person can be convicted without a body being found but we have to be convinced a person is dead,” said Wolters, adding that authorities may also have evidence that places Brueckner at the Algarve resort in southern Portugal where McCann, then just shy of her fourth birthday, disappeared from her family’s apartment.
City workers closing park too early, locking visitors inside
Enter this city park at your own risk.
Parks Department workers are slamming shut the cast-iron gates of one Manhattan green space ahead of closing time, even with visitors inside.
“Park’s closed! Locking the gate,” a worker bellowed at 8:56 p.m. Thursday, an hour ahead of the scheduled 10 p.m. closing time at historic Stuyvesant Square. He booted a half dozen visitors enjoying a warm early fall evening and turned away others trying to enter.
The worker, who refused to give his name and was wearing a mask around his chin, said he was traveling north from Chinatown to lock up city parks.
Another worker closed the gates even earlier on Wednesday, at 8:40 p.m., just as two dog walkers tried to go through the park, which straddles Second Avenue from East 15th to East 17th streets. It includes fountains, benches and a dog run.
“The park’s closed now,” she said without explanation.
One area resident griped on the NextDoor community forum that a parks worker, whom he identified as John, has become confrontational in recent weeks, ordering him to leave at around 8:45 p.m. on Sept. 20.
“He held a powerful flashlight, which he proceeded to shine directly in my eyes. I asked him to move the light away from my eyes and he refused to move it,” the park-goer wrote.
He said he was then locked inside the park, freed only by another Parks Department employee who had also bailed him out a few weeks earlier when he got locked in. At the time, the worker told him that John ignores the posted closing time so he can “go home early,” the man wrote.
“John continues to grow more threatening with each encounter; he blatantly ignores the park’s posted rules and repeatedly harasses its patrons,” he wrote, saying he complained to the Parks Department.
Citywide, there have been 535 complaints to 311 from Jan. 1 through Wednesday about parks not being open. There were 10 complaints about Seward Park in Manhattan; nine about Maria Hernandez Park in Bushwick; seven about Harmony Park in Brooklyn; and five about Central Park.
There were seven complaints lodged about Stuyvesant Square.
The park dates to an 1836 sale of the land to the city by Peter Gerard Stuyvesant, a descendant of Peter Stuyvesant, the last Dutch governor of New Amsterdam. Some activists have demanded that the city remove the statute of the Dutchman from the square because of his anti-Semitic views.
“Our staff travel across each borough every day to manage openings and closings of facilities during their shift. It takes crews three to four hours to lock all Manhattan playgrounds and gated parks, so sometimes facilities will be closed earlier or later than the time posted,” a Parks Department spokeswoman said. “We understand the importance of public space and will work to maximize the time that Stuyvesant Square is available to the public.”
The department said it was “actively investigating the incident” of the park-goer being locked in.
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