"STANDING FAST "
RETIRED BUT STILL THE BRAVEST
Welcome to "Standing Fast" The official newsletter of the Gene Okane Division of "FDNY Retired., the first & oldest FDNY retirees organization ever organized. We have been chartered in the state of Florida since 1979.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Postal Address: FDNY Retired, Box 76 P.O. Box 76, Port Richey, Fl 34673-0076
I hope this letter finds everyone well. We had a great meeting on October 17 that was well attended and we welcomed some new members. A few topics discussed were the fall picnic and the ongoing dental plan issues. The picnic on October 22 at Fred Howard park was a huge success with a good turnout and beautiful weather. I have already booked our spring picnic which is on Saturday April 27 2024. I wanted to book early because the spots fill up quickly and I gathered that most people prefer Saturday instead of Sunday. Our next meeting is Tuesday November 21 at 7pm and we will start making plans for our Christmas party. Hope to see everyone there.
Thank you and God bless.
Fraternally Kevin Doherty
Nov 21 November Monthly Meeting
Nov 23 Thanksgiving
Dec 19 Okane Christmas Dinner Party
Dec 25 Christmas
City Workers Ditch Unions, Skip Dues, Following Supreme Court Ruling
BY C IRIZARRY APONTE AND S BHAT - THE CITY - 10.25.23
Payroll records show drops in membership following 2018’s Janus case, which allow workers to get union benefits without paying union dues.
City payroll records obtained by THE CITY suggest union enrollment has slipped since a Supreme Court ruling that allows government workers to opt out of membership. Between 2018 and 2022, membership went down nearly 8% among city employee unions, outpacing a decline of 5.1% in the number of full-time employees across city agencies.
The gap has grown since 2019, when the city Independent Budget Office found a 3.5% decline in union dues payers after the decision in Janus v. AFSCME, even as city employment held steady.
THE CITY used employee data compiled by the IBO that shows how many city workers deduct union dues from their paychecks each year, and to which unions. We then compared those numbers against payroll records showing the number of workers in corresponding job titles represented by those unions. Both figures captured the number of workers and the number of dues-paying union members as of the end of each fiscal year, starting June 30, 2019.
For the city’s largest employee union, District Council 37, matching a wide array of job titles with the union they pay dues to wasn’t feasible using publicly available data. But certain jobs are easier to match with their unions — notably police, correction officers, sanitation workers and school personnel.
The Police Benevolent Association shrank by more than 3,100 members between 2019 and 2022, even while the number of cops declined by a smaller 1,300. As the number of correction officers working in the city’s jails declined by one-third, the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association saw an even greater decline in dues-paying members, with a 40% drop between 2019 and 2022.
“While the Janus decision created more work to get members enrolled in the union, it has not resulted in a diminishment in our membership,” said union spokesperson John Nuthall. “The reduction in our membership is entirely the result of the NYPD’s inability to recruit or retain police officers.”
Under the Janus decision, public sector workers opt in to paying union dues, and can receive full union benefits even if they are not members. Part-time workers must now re-commit their union membership every time their employment is renewed.
Pre-Janus, public sector employees had the option to explicitly opt out of union membership thanks to an earlier Supreme Court decision but still had to pay “agency fees” out of their paychecks to the unions.
Union leaders, including New York City’s Municipal Labor Committee, warned before the decision of potentially large declines in union membership if signing up became optional.
Any dramatic loss of dues-paying union members could threaten unions’ operations or even their ability to exist – a possibility on the horizon in some so-called “right to work” states.
Harry Nespoli, president of the Uniformed Sanitation men's Association IBT Local 831 and chair of the Municipal Labor Committee, said he was not aware of any drop in members among the city’s public sector unions. The Sanitation union’s membership remained steady after the Janus decision and during COVID, THE CITY’s analysis of IBO payroll data shows.
But five years after Janus, he said, there’s only so much unions can do to preserve their membership. He pointed to the sanitation workers he represents, a workforce that has been struggling with looming budget cuts.
“We have to make it better so that they want to join the union. You represent people to the best of your ability – that’s how you fight back,” he added.
As union president, he said, it’s important people know that dropping membership comes at a price: They’ll miss out on certain union-paid benefits and services, such as free legal representation, and they lose their ability to vote in union elections.
As THE CITY previously reported, Census data shows public sector union membership has dramatically slipped among New York City residents, declining from 70% of government workers in 2020 to just 56% in the fiscal year ending in 2023 — a trend highlighted in a recent report by the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies.
Ruth Milkman, a lead author of the CUNY report and chair of the school’s graduate labor studies department, said the Janus decision is a “prime suspect” for the decline, when combined with what she described as “extreme challenges involved in reaching out to new employees” during the pandemic. She also pointed to expanded reliance on non-union contracts to perform government work.
Even if no workers opted out, public sector union membership would be declining because of a pandemic-driven drop in government employment. New York City had 282,871 full-time municipal workers as of June 30, 2022, down from 299,853 as of the same date in 2019.
The number of city workers is expected to decline further. In September, Mayor Eric Adams asked city agencies to reduce their spending by 15% as a budget-cutting measure in light of the cost of sheltering thousands of migrants and a rocky fiscal outlook.
Adams also implemented a hiring freeze that went into effect on Oct. 1 — not long after partnering with DC37 and its parent union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), to recruit city workers to fill vacant positions.
Long Live Public Pension Funds!
BY ROB KOZLOWSKI - P&I - 10.25.23
When Pensions & Investments launched in 1973, the passage of ERISA was on the horizon and corporate defined benefit plans faced a bright future that has since faded as the majority of private-sector workers have been moved to defined contribution plans.
Will public-sector DB plans face a similar fate? Experts say despite numerous challenges, including lower capital market projections, rising contribution rates and an often charged political environment, public pension plans should continue to "muddle through" for decades to come.
Anthony Randazzo, executive director of the Equable Institute, a bipartisan, nonprofit organization that focuses on public-sector retirement systems and their funding challenges, said in an interview that so many public pension plans remain open because "in the ideal form, pensions are really great benefits."
In the corporate space, however, Randazzo notes that companies always balanced the cost of benefits against their usefulness as a recruiting-and-retention tools.
"In that context, it was a lot easier for corporations to shift away from pensions because of the increasingly high costs these plans have had," Randazzo said.
On the public-sector side, Randazzo said pension plans have persisted because the benefit has been seen as necessary for generations now "and thus it's politically challenging to tackle pensions."
Both corporate and public pension plans had the great fortune during the 25 years before the global financial crisis of being present in a spectacularly beneficial market return environment
Following the financial crisis and a massive expansion of the money supply, institutions still had OK returns, Smith said. However, he said that ability of the central banks to continue creating debt and putting that into economies doesn't exist anymore, pointing out the U.S. government spending $15 trillion from 2009 to 2021.
"We really think we've shifted into a different economic and investment environment," and investment returns will be lower in the years ahead, he said.
Others agree. According to the Equable Institute's latest annual report — State of Pensions 2023 — a standard pension fund has only a 50% chance to earn 5.6% over the next 10 years or 6.3% over the next 20 years.
For their part, U.S. public pension plans have gradually made their rate of return assumptions more realistic, with the average falling to 6.88% in 2023 from 8.07% in 2001, according to the Equable Institute report.
Unlike corporate pension funds, which are required to use a discount rate equivalent to an AA-rated bond in order to determine future obligations, public pension funds utilize their rate of return assumption as their discount rates.
An unrealistically high rate of return assumption could lead to an inaccurate picture of future pension obligations.
"It's not clear to me that pension funds have stopped their transition to lowering their return assumptions," said Jean-Pierre Aubry, associate director of state and local research at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.
Public pension plans have been revisiting their assumptions for years, and have made other moves in order to reduce the costs of plans, especially after the one-two punch of the dot-com recession of 2000 and the Great Recession eight years later.
"I think the defined benefit plans are here to stay, although there is a movement toward those plans becoming more risk sharing," said Gene Kalwarski, CEO , principal consulting actuary and co-founder of Cheiron.
Aubry concurred, citing efforts by various states and municipalities to create new tiers of benefits, increase the rates of contributions by employees and employers, and control cost-of-living adjustments.
U.S. corporate and public pension plans experienced a significant funding crisis after the two recessions and while many corporations have addressed the issue by closing and freezing their plans or transferring assets and liabilities to insurance companies, governmental entities generally avoided those steps.
Changes across dozens of states and municipalities have helped ensure the long-term survival of public pension plans, Aubry said.
"Benefit cuts, COLA changes, and just hiring fewer workers," said Aubry. "In changing plan designs, they have more hybrid systems, systems that share risks. At least they are building themselves for the long haul by making these kinds of adjustments, and yes, returns will be lower but that's the reason they had to make these changes."
Industry experts also note that after the Great Recession, governmental entities learned their lessons and assess their risks far more robustly.
"We're constantly doing projections," said Cheiron's Kalwarski. "Not just projections based on the assumption, more often they are requiring us to assess the risks these plans face." Cheiron is an actuarial consultant for a number of public pension plans.
Among the new requirements to assess those risks would be robust stress tests in which best-case and worst-case scenarios are determined based on investment returns and contributions.
"The reporting is much more robust than it was 20 years ago," he said.
Despite the challenges public pension plans are experiencing, the lessons learned following the Great Recession should contribute to their continued survival.
“Looking at the history of how changes are made to these systems, and also knowing what kinds of legal protections exist in most states,” said Equable’s Randazzo, “my best guess is that public plans as a whole will continue to muddle forward.”
Because investment return assumptions will be lower and market volatility will increase, Randazzo said the volatility in funded status will increase a bit over the next decade, meaning some years the average ratio might be in the mid to high 80s, and other years in the low 70s. “It’s all going to kind of stay about where we are,” Randazzo said, “and I think that’s unfortunate.”
“The retirement system administrators across the country should collectively be telling the leaders in their states that it just continues to be irresponsible and unrealistic to be asking the pension fund managers, the investment managers, to be trying to hit the investment target that they’re trying to hit, and that means more contributions are needed.”
Hospitals, Doctors Drop Private Medicare Plans Over Payment Disputes
by Ken Alltucker - USA Today - 10.27.23
For years, hospitals, doctors and health insurance companies have squared off over how much to pay for medical services. Insurers negotiate contracts with hospitals and doctors so their customers can get lower, in-network rates at those facilities.
These negotiations, usually hammered out behind the scenes, are becoming increasingly tense and public as hospitals seek adequate payments and health insurance companies attempt to check spiraling medical bills.
Experts say these disputes could be an early warning sign of more contract terminations ahead as hospitals and large doctor groups seek lucrative payments to offset inflation, healthcare workers' double-digit raises and escalating prices for medical supplies.
But for patients caught in the middle of these disputes, the results can be devastating. Some need to switch doctors or insurance plans or potentially pay higher, out-of-network rates at a time when half of Americans are struggling to afford the rising cost of medical care.
Scripps Health ended the 2024 Medicare Advantage plan contracts with two medical units, called Scripps Clinic and Scripps Coastal. The decision will affect about 32,000 patients who will either need to switch Medicare plans or find new doctors.
“We’re unfortunately on the vanguard of what I think is going to be a very ugly few years between hospitals and commercial insurance companies,” said Chris Van Gorder, President and CEO, Scripps Health.
Many contract terminations involve hospitals rejecting terms for private Medicare insurance plans, known as Medicare Advantage plans. While traditional, government-run Medicare allows enrollees to choose from a wide variety of doctors and hospitals, private Medicare plans restrict access through networks and impose some cost-sharing requirements such as copayments or deductibles.
Hospitals that are rejecting private Medicare plans say they don’t reimburse at the same levels as traditional Medicare, delay or deny care through prior authorizations or impose other limitations.
Van Gorder said Scripps' Medicare Advantage exit was a “very difficult decision” but one he had to make due to more than $75 million in annual losses. He tried to negotiate more lucrative reimbursement rates, but those talks fizzled.
While private Medicare plans are funded by government-run Medicare, they're also profitable because insurers keep a portion of those payments before paying for care, he said.
Van Gorder described private Medicare offerings as “delay, deny or don’t pay” plans. "They're in the business of making money," he said.
Doctors' groups and hospitals are more willing to air frustrations over private Medicare plans after think-tanks and government watchdog agencies have issued critical reports about these insurers' profits and practices, said David Lipschutz, associate director and senior policy attorney for the Center for Medicare Advocacy.
In 2022, a government watchdog report said private Medicare plans routinely rejected claims that should have been paid and denied services found to be medically necessary. These private plans rejected nearly one in five claims allowed under Medicare coverage rules and denied 13% of authorizations for medical services that government-run Medicare would have allowed, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services inspector general investigators found.
Doctors and hospitals "are more willing to publicly express their frustration," Lipschutz said, because these private Medicare plans get what "many people would characterize as overpayments."
More than a half dozen other hospital systems from Bend, Oregon to Nashville, Tennessee have announced private Medicare contract terminations or lapses.
St. Charles Health System in Bend said it will end Medicare contracts next year with Humana, HealthNet and WellCare.
Mark Hallett, St. Charles' chief clinical officer, said sticking with those private Medicare plans would "result in restrictions to patient care, longer hospital stays and administrative burdens" for doctors.
As of mid-April, Vanderbilt's hospitals, clinics and doctors exited the networks of Humana's HMO Medicare plan and Kentucky Medicaid plan. The hospital advised patients to either shop for a new insurance plan or contact Humana to find an in-network provider.
A Vanderbilt spokesman declined to answer questions about the lapsed contract, referring USA TODAY to the health provider's website on the dispute. On the website, Vanderbilt cited the need for "fair partnerships" to cover higher costs for workers, supplies, equipment and medications.
"We can't continue to partner with insurance plans that don't reimburse us adequately," Vanderbilt said.
Earlier this year, Bon Secours' contract dispute with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield put tens of thousands of Medicare beneficiaries in Virginia and Medicaid recipients in Ohio out of network. In a lawsuit filed in August, Bon Secours alleged Anthem owed the health provider $93 million in unpaid claims. Last month, Bon Secours dropped the lawsuit as the two sides settled the payment dispute and reinstated in-network access for enrollees.
More than half of eligible Americans choose private Medicare plans over traditional Medicare because they deliver "better services, better access to care and better value," said David Allen, a spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry group representing private health insurers.
Allen added private Medicare plans must maintain adequate networks of doctors and hospitals and notify customers when there are significant changes to these networks.
"Medicare Advantage includes robust protections for the people it serves," Allen said.
Seniors in the San Diego area who will be cut off from the two Scripps Health doctors networks are scrambling to assess their options, said Craig Gussin, an insurance broker in Carlsbad.
"People are really upset with Scripps," Gussin said.
Seniors on Medicare have the option to choose a new plan during Medicare's annual open enrollment, which runs from mid-October through Dec. 7. Seniors can choose traditional government-run Medicare or switch to a private Medicare Advantage plan.
But some scenarios may catch enrollees off guard.
Traditional Medicare charges 20% coinsurance for medical care with no maximum limit. People on Medicare can purchase a supplemental insurance plan, called MediGap, which largely covers those extra medical bills. However, people can only enroll in MediGap at certain times such as when they turn 65 and initially sign up for Medicare coverage.
If people try to switch from a private Medicare plan to traditional Medicare, they may not be able to purchase this supplemental insurance. MediGap insurers can deny coverage for existing health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease or charge consumers more. Only states such as New York and Connecticut that have "guaranteed issue" laws that allow seniors to sign up for MediGap year-round.
"That trips so many people up," Lipschutz said.
Gussin has been working long days answering calls from Scripps Health patients who want to know what their options might be. Some are willing to keep their existing private Medicare plan and change primary-care doctors. Others want to switch Medicare insurers.
Private Medicare plans must maintain an adequate network of providers. So if a hospital drops from an insurance plan's network, that can raise questions about whether the insurance plan has enough in-network providers for enrollees, Lipschutz said.
If more hospitals and doctors drop private Medicare plans, 'that further begs the question whether in fact that network is adequate," Lipschutz said.
While the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services oversees private Medicare plans, the federal agency does not become involved in contract disputes.
The federal agency is prohibited from interfering in contract disputes or dictating reimbursement rates that private Medicare plans negotiate with health systems.
CMS evaluates whether contract disputes that terminate in-network coverage "have the potential to affect a large number of the (Medicare Advantage) enrollees," a CMS spokesperson said.
If these contract terminations "result in significant network changes," the federal agency can order a special enrollment period to allow beneficiaries to switch plans, the spokesperson said.
The agency said it did not have a number on how many such contract terminations or special enrollment periods are ordered each year.
Some private consultants who advise hospitals and health systems on how to get higher reimbursement from private insurers advise them to terminate contracts as part of a negotiating tactic, even if consumers face higher bills and collection threats.
Brad Gingerich is a vice president at Ensemble Health Partners, which describes itself as a tech-driven revenue cycle management company.
Gingerich said terminating a contract is "your last option" when negotiating with private insurers. Hospitals are adopting harder negotiating tactics with private Medicare plans because that's where insurers are "making their money and refusing to really work in good faith" with hospitals and doctors.
"We don't really put ourselves out as the bully on the block," GIngerich said. "Sometimes you have to take more aggressive ways as a means to that end.
NYC Fire Pensions Hit New High
New York City firefighters and fire officers retiring last year after full careers were entitled to average annual pension benefits of $149,783, up 11 percent from the prior year, according to new data added to the Empire Center’s government website.
Out of a total of 15,796 FDNY retirees, the average pension as of fiscal 2023 came to $89,560, up $29,917 (50 percent) from $59,642 a decade ago. Both amounts include in-service disability payments for some.
Looking at the most recent data for all New York City Fire Pension Fund retirees, 464 retirees were eligible for pensions over $200,000, and seven were eligible for pensions over $300,000. The highest pension among all retirees went to retired a Captain, who was eligible for $364,162 after retiring in early 2022.
The figures include benefits from an optional program that allows members to make extra contributions to the plan, and the pension fund’s “Variable Supplement Fund,” a $12,000 payment to uniformed employees also known as “the Christmas bonus.”
Even assuming a generous 7 percent average rate of return on its investments, the Fire Pension Plan has an unfunded liability of more than $7 billion—equating to $700,000 per firefighter and fire officer on the job today. A 2021 Empire Center analysis of state retirement funds warned the Fire Pension Fund was “especially weak.”
The pensions are constitutionally guaranteed by New York taxpayers and are exempt from New York state income tax. New York City government retirees also receive city healthcare coverage at no cost.
FDNY Candidate ‘Full of Dreams’ Dies at 32 from Medical Episode During Training Run: ‘Tragic Loss’
by Amanda Woods - NY Post - 10.10.23
A 32-year-old aspiring FDNY firefighter – described as being “full of dreams” – died after suffering a sudden medical episode during a training exercise.Alexander Griffin was participating in the 1.5-mile run – one of the requirements to enter the FDNY academy – when he suffered an “undetermined medical episode” on Oct. 3, the department said.
“He received immediate medical care and was transported to Metropolitan Hospital, where he later passed away,” an FDNY spokesman said. “Our hearts are with the family as they grieve this tragic loss.”
Griffin leaves behind his wife, mother and brother, FDNY Firefighter Sean Griffin of Engine 260 in Dutch Kills, Queens, the family wrote on an online fundraising page set up after his tragic death.
“We are deeply saddened to share the news of Alexander Griffin’s untimely passing,” states the GoFundMe page.
“He was a young man full of dreams and aspirations, but tragically, his journey was cut short while pursuing those dreams.”
Alexander Griffin was participating in the FDNY’s training run when he suffered a deadly medical episode.3
“He was a young man full of dreams and aspirations, but tragically, his journey was cut short while pursuing those dreams,” Griffin’s family said.3
Griffin leaves behind his wife, mother and brother, FDNY Firefighter Sean Griffin.
Griffin’s kin are seeking donations to help cover funeral costs and medical expenses.
“No donation is too small, as every bit helps to ease the financial burden that has unexpectedly fallen upon this grieving family,” the family wrote.
The FDNY hopeful’s funeral will be held at Levy & Delany Funeral Home on Thursday in South Ozone Park.
OKANE CHRISTMAS DINNER PARTY
Our annual Christmas Dinner Party will take place at the Legion Hall on Tuesday, December 19th. As usual, there will be songs & hymns of the season, Plenty of good food, prizes and Santa Claus will even Pay a visit. Reservations can be made at the November monthly meeting at $5 per person. Hope to see you there
OFFICIAL SOCIAL SECURITY COLA 2024
Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Information | SSA
A 3.2% COLA would raise the average monthly retiree benefits of $1,790 by $57.30.
If I remember what Sister Mary Diphtheria taught my class, we would use
a 'proportion' to solve the Social Security increase. Let's say your SS is $2,000.
$1790:$57.30 = $2,000:X
X= $114,600 [Divided by] $1,790
X = $64.00
Boy, did I just put my Arithmetic Medal 'on the line' ! jg
MEDICARE PART B PREMIUMS WILL INCREASE $9.80 A MONTH FOR 2024 FOR THE YEAR 2023 MEDICARE PART B FOR A SINGLE INDIVIDUAL IS $2,040 A YEAR AND FOR A COUPLE IT IS NOW $4,080
Pension COLA Announced
The annual Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) is 2.5%, for a maximum annual increase of $450, or $37.50 per month before taxes, starting with this month’s payment (October). You will receive a notification of the net change in your pension amount from the Retirement System.
State law requires COLA payments to be calculated based on 50 percent of the annual rate of inflation, measured at the end of the State fiscal year (March 31). Once you are eligible, your annual COLA is at least 1 percent, but no more than 3 percent, of your benefit. If your pension benefit is less than $18,000, your COLA payment is calculated on your actual pension amount.
To begin receiving COLA payments, you must be:
One of RPEA’s highest priorities next session is to improve the COLA formula (which hasn't changed in 23 years). Our bill S.6307 (Jackson)/A.7023 (Pheffer-Amato) would raise the threshold from $18,000 to $21,000 and provide a “catch-up” provision to authorize the actual COLA for each of the past 23 years, while still maintaining the 3% cap. While the “catch up” provision helps everyone who is COLA eligible, the greatest benefit goes to older retirees who have much smaller pensions. Twenty four percent of retirees have a pension under $10,000.
This is what RPEA does.
RPEA Annual Meeting Update
Agenda and Live Stream Information
RPEA’s Annual Meeting is Wednesday, October 4, 2023, at the Hilton Garden Inn, Troy, NY. Comptroller Tom DiNapoli will deliver the Keynote Address at 11:45am. To see the complete agenda, click here.
For those unable to travel to the Capital District, we will live-stream the entire meeting on our Facebook Page. You will be able to watch, even if you are not a member of Facebook simply by clicking here or on the RPEA website by clicking here.
NYC Response Times to Fires, Medical Emergencies Soaring — Along with Fire Deaths
by Rich Calder - NY Post - UPDATED
For a second consecutive year, New York City first responders took longer to get to fires and other medical emergencies — and more people died in blazes.
Combined response times by FDNY ambulances and fire companies to “life-threatening medical emergencies” were up 20 seconds on average during the fiscal year ending June 30 – or 3.5% — to 9 minutes and 50 seconds compared to the previous 12 months, according to the Fiscal 2023 Mayor’s Management Report, released Friday.
Fire deaths involving civilians jumped by 10.8%, from 92 to 102, the report found.
Fire companies responded on average in 9 minutes and 23 seconds while agency ambulances took 10 minutes and 43 seconds — both up from the previous year, the agency said.
The FDNY also noted an uptick in life-threatening medical emergency calls, from 564,412 in fiscal 2022 to 605,140 last fiscal year.
And overall structural fires also rose 2% over the same period, from 23,387 to 23,901, according to the annual report.
New York City response times to fires and other medical emergencies rose for a second straight year, according to a new report released by Mayor Adams.
“We’re on the brink of costing people’s life if things don’t change,” said Oren Barzilay, president of Local 2507, the union representing more than 4,100 rank-and-file city emergency medical technicians and paramedics.
Barzilay said he didn’t expect much improvement to response times considering the mass influx of migrants and other new residents draining city resources, and City Hall’s anti-car agenda that includes closing off more streets and driving lanes.
“[Unless] the city and state take EMS seriously as an essential service, we’re going to see a total collapse of the system,” he added.
The FDNY is blaming its rising response times to fires and other medical emergencies to more people driving to avoid the using a crime-plagued subway system — and clogging up traffic.
Combined response times by FDNY ambulances and fire companies to “life-threatening medical emergencies” rose 20 seconds during the fiscal year ending June 30 – or 3.5% — to 9 minutes and 50 seconds.
James Brosi, president of the FDNY Uniformed Fire Officers Association, blamed the rise in response times on the city’s relentless narrowing of streets and changing of traffic patterns in recent years to slow traffic, coupled with an increase in emergency calls coming in.
“Seconds are critical when people’s lives are at stake,” he said. “With budget cuts looming, we must keep every apparatus in service and staffing levels high, so we can protect the lives and property of the people of New York.”
The Mayor’s Management Report – which outlines the highs and lows of all city agency operations – also notes that response times are 82 seconds – or 16.1% — higher than the 8 minute and 28 second average in fiscal 2019. There were 67 civilian fire deaths that same year, or 52% less than fiscal 2023.
The new numbers even exceed response times from fiscal 2020 when emergency responders were overwhelmed at the start of the pandemic.
The FDNY blamed the increase in deaths on more New Yorkers using lithium-ion batteries to power e-bikes and e-scooters.
Battery fires have surpassed electrical fires at the top cause of deaths the past year, officials said.
The Mayor’s Management Report released by Eric Adams is the first benchmark of his administration’s performance covering a full fiscal year.
And the agency attributed rising response times in part to “higher levels of traffic citywide as a result of changes in travel patterns,” such as more people relying on cars and to avoid the crime-ridden subways.
Major crime also continued to rise during Mayor Eric Adams’ first full fiscal year in office – while NYPD response times slowed across the board, according to the report.
Adams, a retired NYPD captain who made combating crime the centerpiece of his mayoral campaign, released his first management report last year.
However, the findings of the Fiscal 2022 Mayor’s Management Report were split amongst two administrations: the final six months of ex-Mayor Bill de Blasio’s time in office and the first six of Adams’ current term.
FDNY Ambulance Failed to Reach Teen Stabbed on MTA Bus as NYPD Cops Rushed Dying Boy to Hospital: Officials
By Susan Edelman and Tina Moore - NY Post - 10.15.23
An FDNY ambulance did not reach 13-year-old stabbing victim Syles Ular in time to treat his wounds, leaving cops to rush the bleeding boy to the hospital.
An FDNY ambulance did not reach 13-year-old stabbing victim Syles Ular in time to treat his wounds, leaving cops to rush the bleeding boy to the hospital, The Post has learned.
Ular was stabbed with a knife multiple times in the chest by another 13-year-old on an MTA bus in Staten Island at about 2:20 pm. Friday – at a time of heavy medical emergency calls and most ambulances in the area tied up, officials said.
“Because of the increase of call volume at that time of day, which is not unusual, most of the ambulance units were on other calls,” said FDNY spokesman Jim Long.
“A unit was assigned to this job from a little further away because of the busyness and the unavailability of resources.”
The 911 call to Hylan Boulevard and Littlefield Avenue in Eltingville came in at 2:23 pm, the NYPD said.
Police arrived at 2:26 pm., and left with the teen in a patrol car en route to Staten Island University Hospital South at 2:31 pm.
Meanwhile, an FDNY ambulance was immediately dispatched with an ETA of 14 minutes, but arrived in 10 minutes at 2:33:40 pm. Long said.
NYPD officers search for the murder weapon in the fatal stabbing.
Cops quickly decide whether to wait for an ambulance with EMS personnel – who could stem the bleeding, give oxygen or IV fluids, and perform CPR – or hightail it to the hospital.
“No point in waiting for an ambulance and letting him die on the street,” a veteran paramedic said.
“The only way to save him was through surgical intervention.”
The police arrived at 2:35 pm at the hospital, where Ular was pronounced dead.
A retired cop who happened to be in the area nabbed another 13-year-old, a fellow student of Ular at IS 7, a short distance from the scene.
The youth was charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and criminal possession of a weapon.
“It’s a shame that there was no ambulance immediately available for a kid who was stabbed on a city bus and ultimately went into cardiac arrest,” said Anthony Almojera, vice president of Local 3621, the EMS officers’ union.
People wrote about the teen on boards posted outside his building.
“Throwing a kid in the back of a patrol car does not work.”
It’s a growing citywide problem, he added: “Every day, the city’s EMS workers are responding to ever increasing call numbers, and currently we are short-staffed.”
Combined response times by FDNY ambulances and fire companies to “life-threatening medical emergencies” have risen for the second consecutive year: up 20 seconds on average, or 3.5%, to 9 minutes and 50 seconds compared to the prior 12 months, according to the Fiscal 2023 Mayor’s Management report.
Ular’s mother declined to comment, saying she will speak out after her son’s juvenile killer is “indicted.”
“Right now, I’m grieving.”
Over 545,000 New Yorkers Left the State in 2022 —Headed for Florida, Texas and Farther: Census Bureau
By Selim Algar - NY Post - 10.24.23
It’s an Empire State of decline.
Beset by high taxes and quality of life woes, 545,498 New Yorkers left for other states in 2022, according to US Census data.
Top destinations included Florida — the most popular choice — followed by New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania as well as more distant states like Texas and California.
The exodus was partly offset by more people moving to the Empire State in 2022 than any year over the last decade, with 301,000 new residents making the transition.
Despite that uptick, New York still suffered a net population loss of 244,000.
The departures have yet to impact New York City housing costs, with median rents continuing to hover near all-time post COVID-19 highs.
According to a recent report from real estate company Elliman, Manhattan median rents stood at $4,350 in September — up from $4,022 during the same period last year.
Post analysis of census data showed over half a million New Yorkers left for other states in 2022, with the top six destinations shown here
Median rents in Brooklyn and Queens — $3,700 and $3,528 respectively — are also near record highs.
Trading snowfall for sunshine, more New Yorkers moved to Florida in 2022 than any other state, with 91,000 people making the swap.
After Florida, fleeing New Yorkers opted for more proximate locales — with 75,000 decamping to New Jersey, 50,670 to Connecticut and 44,000 to Pennsylvania.
California, which absorbed a net population decline of 342,000 in 2022, attracted 31,000 New Yorkers last year.
Florida was the top relocation destination for New Yorkers in 2022.
Census data show 545,000 people left New York in 2022.
The number of New Yorkers moving to Texas surpassed 30,000 for the first time in 2022 — up from 18,000 in 2019 for an increase of 67%, the data show.
North Carolina, Massachusetts, Virginia and Georgia rounded out the top ten destinations.
The least popular choices were Wyoming, Montana, Iowa, Mississippi and South Dakota which all saw less than 500 people move from New York in 2022.
South Dakota was the least preferred, with just 52 people scampering to the Mount Rushmore State last year.
84% Say the migrant influx is a serious problem — including 81% of Democrats
64% Disapprove of the job the Biden administration is doing with the migrant crisis
29% think that New Yorkers should accept new migrants and work to assimilate them into New York
64% of New Yorkers think they have already done enough for new migrants and should now work to slow the flow of migrants to New York.NY Post composite
A Post analysis of the census bureau’s state-to-state migration figures shows a steady decline from New York each year since 2012, with departures vastly outpacing inbound moves and roughly 4.6 million people waving goodbye to New York over the past decade
Roughly 2,700,000 people relocated to New York over that span — resulting in a net population loss of 1.9 million residents.
Compared to 2012, the number of exits in 2022 was up a startling 34%. That year, 405,00 people left the state, while 270,000 moved in — a less marked loss of 135,000 residents.
About 30,000 New Yorkers moved to Texas last year with many choosing Austin.
New York Migration data 2022, per US census bureau:
Life-Saving NYC Medics Treated Like Zeroes with Low Pay: ex-FDNY boss Says
By Carl Campanile - NY Post - 10.15.23
These heroes are being treated more like zeroes.
City emergency medical services workers continue to make measly pay – despite promises 25 years ago to provide them salaries comparable with firefighters and other uniformed officers, former Fire Commissioner tom von essen said in a new interview.
“Nobody did anything for those guys. These guys have been getting screwed around for years. It’s so wrong. It’s disgusting,” said von essen – who oversaw the transfer of the EMS service from the public hospital system, Health + Hospitals, to the FDNY – to The Post.
The salary disparity is especially sickening after the city’s emergency medical technicians and paramedics put their lives on the line by pulling seriously ill, contagious COVID-19 patients from their homes and transporting them to hospitals during the peak of the pandemic, von essen noted.
The ex-fire department head said he understood that it would take several labor contracts over a number of years to achieve parity for EMS workers – but it never happened.
“In 25 years nothing was done to help them. Give me a break. It’s a shame,” von essen said.
Currently, salaries for EMTs range from $39,386 to $59,534 after five years, while the salaries for medics starts at $53,891 and max out at $75,872 after five years.
The starting pay for firefighters is $45,196, gradually rising to $55,101 after one year, $59,641 after two years, $65,267 after 3 years, $71,504 after four years and $110,293 after five years.
The low pay has some city EMTs and paramedics running for Nassau County, where salaries for medics start at $50,000, rising to $81,191 after one year. The top salary there rises to $142,730.
City emergency medical services workers have been waiting for comparable salaries to FDNY and other city officials for 25 years.
“Nassau County EMTs and paramedics can earn up to $142,000 a year after 12 years on the job, with a starting salary of $50,000. After just one year, these medics will make $81,000, which is $6,000 more than a 20-year FDNY medic,” he noted.
“New York spends tens of thousands of dollars training each EMS professional but compensates them more like teenagers on a weekly allowance,” Barzilay added. “It’s why our first responder force is constantly experiencing massive brain drain!”
The union head previously noted that without a raise, some EMTS will be paid less than restaurant delivery-app workers starting in 2025.
von essen says EMS personnel are leaving to join firefighting departments and private hospitals.
von essen agreed there’s a “brain drain.”
“This is why EMS workers are leaving. They’re going into the firefighting service or going to the private hospitals,” he said.
von essen also served as the New York regional administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, working closely to provide more ambulances and equipment to FDNY EMS.
“During COVID, EMS did a phenomenal job. They saved lives,” he said.
When then-Mayor Bill de Blasio asked what he should do to aid emergency response, von essen said he suggested boosting pay for FDNY EMS workers – to no avail.
Current salaries for EMTs range from $39,386 to $59,534 after five years.
The state Senate will be holding a public hearing on retention woes with the city government workforce and the FDNY EMS staffing will be a major focus.
The contract for the ambulance workers expired last July – as they watched City Hall reach agreements providing multiyear, double-digit salary hikes and bonuses to 75% of the Big Apple’s workforce including teachers, police and firefighters, sanitation and other municipal employees.
When the EMS union endorsed Mayor Eric Adams in the Democratic primary for mayor in June of 2021, he promised to address the pay disparity for the essential workers.
“Our EMTs, paramedics, and fire inspectors deserve our City’s thanks and respect, but for years they have been shamefully denied basic pay equity,” Adams said when accepting the endorsement.
“As mayor, I will not stand for discrimination against workers, especially not the women and men who have put their lives at risk to save ours day after day.”
City Hall had no immediate comment Sunday, but previously told The Post via a statement from the FDNY, that it’s ready to negotiate a wage package with EMS ambulance workers.
“We were pleased we were able to reach an agreement with the union in the last round of bargaining that addressed their needs and was overwhelmingly ratified,” an FDNY rep said.
"When a Retired Fireman or Fire Officer Dies, both He & His Spouse are Entitled to Reimbursement for Medicare Part “B” Premiums Which Were Deducted From both of their Social Security Checks"
While alive, The Medicare premium for both husband & wife is deducted from both the fireman & fire officer’s wife’s monthly Social Security check. While he is alive, The N.Y.C. Office Of Labor Relations reimburses the fireman for both the fireman’s & the wife’s Medicare premium each year, usually in August. This is now done via an electronic transfer into the member’s bank account or in a paper check if the member has opted out of the electronic form of payment. When the fireman dies and notification is made to FDNY of the death of a retired member, Both the member & his wife are still entitled to a partial reimbursement from January 1st till the date of his death. The same is true if the wife should die before her husband. The husband is then entitled to reimbursement of the money which was deducted from her Social Security check to pay her Medicare Part B premium. THIS PARTIAL REIMBURSEMENT IS NOT PAID AUTOMATICALLY THE FOLLOWING YEAR, AS IT WAS WHEN HE WAS ALIVE. THE HUSBAND OR WIDOW MUST MAKE APPLICATION TO THE “CITY OF NEW YORK, OFFICE OF LABOR RELATIONS TO RECEIVE THE PARTIAL PAYMENT. SHE MUST APPLY AS SOON AS POSSIBLE AFTER THE DEATH. FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTINS: In order to receive this money, the husband or widow must make application to the Office Of Labor Relations in writing. She could try calling them at (212) 513-0470, but you will wait a long time & if you are lucky to get through, they will tell you the same information I have provided you with here. She must write a letter to the Office Of Labor Relations stating that : she is the widow of a retired NYC fireman, that she is requesting reimbursement of ALL Medicare Part B premiums from January 1st, year till the date of his death for both her (the widow) & her deceased husband, she must included a certified copy of the death certificate (no photo copies will be accepted), include the fireman’s name & social security number, also her name & social security number and her valid address. She must send all of this to: Office Of Labor Relations, 40 Rector Street – 3rd Floor, New York, N.Y. 10006. It would be wise to send it “certified Mail” return receipt requested. They will send the widow an affidavit which she must complete & return to them.
The answer to this "Who is, what is it, where is it" is at the bottom of this page
WAS HE REALLY THERE 9-11?
Radio Host Told He's a 9/11 Hero.
Was He Really There?
By James Peter - The Observer - 9.026.23 - UPDATED
The Observer found inconsistencies throughout radio personality "the Captain" Matt Bruce's story of 9/11 heroism, military service and record as a firefighter.
Syndicated radio host Matt Bruce spoke to the audience at the 9/11 Remembrance ceremony held Sept. 11, 2023, at Sarasota National Cemetery. He told an incredible story of survival at the World Trade Center on 9/11, but how much of it is true?
He was trapped for 13 hours in the rubble of the World Trade Center on 9/11.
That’s what conservative radio host Matt Bruce told an audience this year during the Remembrance of 9/11 ceremony at Sarasota National Cemetery.
“‘Mayday, mayday, mayday,’ those (calls) were real,” said Bruce during his speech. “And I probably was one of them.”
No way. Hell no. Not a chance.
Those were the reactions of current and retired firefighters from the city and state of New York to Bruce’s story of survival.
A former Sarasota-area resident now based in the Tampa area, Bruce refers to himself as “the Captain.” He hosts a nationally syndicated late-night talk radio program called “Captain’s America Third Watch,” which appears along with “The Alex Jones Show” in the 40-show lineup of Genesis Communications Network.
GCN’s website describes itself as “the largest independently owned and operated talk radio network in the country,” whose talk radio programming is heard in 49 states. Locally, Bruce’s program appears on The Answer AM 930 (AM 860 in Tampa) and FM 93.7.
Over his decades-long radio career, Bruce has built an audience by cultivating a folksy on-air persona bolstered by his decorated record in Vietnam and as a firefighter in the state of New York.
As a firefighter “assigned” to the New York City Fire Department, he says he responded to the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, where he was buried for 13 hours in the rubble of the North Tower.
But sources throughout New York fire departments, including FDNY, have something in common. They say Matt Bruce is “a fake.”
Matt Bruce sits beside Karen Holbrook, regional chancellor of the USF Sarasota-Manatee Campus.
“I had friends who died on 9/11. To say that he survived a building collapse is a sin,” said Mark McLees, former Syracuse fire chief, whose department Bruce claims to have worked for over a 10-year period.
A wide range of interviews, archival material and public records the Observer obtained reveal that in many cases, Bruce is either outright lying, wholly exaggerating or some combination of the two when it comes to his military career and service as a firefighter.
Bruce was invited to speak at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee’s 9/11 commemoration held on Sept. 11, 2023.
During his speech, Bruce told the audience gathered in Sarasota about his experiences on 9/11. He was in New York that day to teach 25 probationary firefighters ”the skill of initial fire attack,” he said.
Bruce said, “I found myself” at the World Trade Center, “was able to go up to Tower No. 2,” ostensibly as part of the rescue efforts inside the WTC’s North Tower (address WTC 1) “when a building fell on me.” While trapped for 13 hours in the rubble of the North Tower’s collapse, Bruce said he suffered a compound fracture to his ankle that was splinted by a comrade.
“It hurt like hell … stopped the bleeding, put a tourniquet on it, and 13 hours later we got out of the mess that we were in,” Bruce said in his speech.
It sounds like a miracle, the stuff of movies.
Of course, that movie has already been made. “The Miracle of Stairwell B” recounted th