Last Thursday, Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, Chair of the Fire & Criminal Justice Committee, was the only elected official to join the city’s two largest uniformed unions, on the Steps of City Hall, to counter Mayor Bloomberg’s misinformation campaign attacking pensions as the Mayor attempts to renege on a long-standing Variable Supplement Fund (VSF) agreement that was bought and paid for in previous negotiations.
Council Member Elizabeth Crowley said: “Today I stand with Pat Lynch, President of the PBA and Steve Cassidy, President of the UFA in support of our Police and Fire Services. Through the media, Mayor Bloomberg has attacked the Firefighters and Police Officers who risk their lives every day to save New Yorkers.”
Council Member Crowley continued: “There is always room for reform but we need to do it rationally and not through the media and sound bites that are untrue. To call the Variable Supplement Fund a “Christmas Bonus” is misleading and inaccurate. The VSF is a negotiated deal paid for and promised to our Police and Fire Services– and for the safety of New Yorkers and our safety services, we need to make good on that promise. We need to bring all the leaders involved to the table to come to a solution that does not hurt New Yorkers.”
Council Member Crowley stated: “One of government’s most important responsibilities is to keep people safe – that is why we allocate taxpayer money to our public safety and emergency services. It’s a tough job and let’s be realistic: if we take their pensions away, we will inevitably deter qualified men and women to take on these dangerous and sometimes deadly jobs. Our Police and Fire Services risk their lives to protect us and it’s up to us and the city to protect them after they retire.”
The VSF originated under the Mayor John Lindsay Administration when the city wanted to be able to invest money from the Police and Fire Pension Funds in the stock market. In response, the unions wanted a formula to calculate what percentage of salary would determine pension allowances for their members. In 1970 state law passed to create the VSF, made retroactive to 1968, in which funding would be provided only in years when the performance of stock investments topped that of the city’s bond holdings by a specified percentage. While the market went up and down in the 70s and 80s and then crashed in 1987, the unions wanted a defined benefit that their members could rely on. Therefore, in May of 1988, the city reached another deal with the city by agreeing to raise the annual benefit from $1,800 to $2,500 with $500 in each year to follow until a peak was reached of $12,000 in 2007.