New York City schools will remain closed Tuesday and Wednesday and public transport will be suspended for at least the rest of the work week, as the city begins cleaning up from Hurricane Sandy, the most damaging natural disaster to hit the city in over a century. But New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked all city employees to report to work anyway, reports New York's Daily News, and said school principals and administrators would forfeit vacation days if they didn't. The president of the New York principals' union said the decision was "unconscionable" and "put adults at risk."
"City workers are here to help others. I think they understand that," Bloomberg said Monday. "City government is open and these are the times when New Yorkers need us most." Those on duty include sanitation workers, emergency room staffers and park employees. In a press conference Tuesday morning, Bloomberg reiterated to city workers that they had an obligation to help others. "If your office is open, and if you can safely-- and I repeat, safely -- get to work, please do so," he said. And if their offices aren't open, he added, city employees should try to get to a shelter to volunteer their services.
Bloomberg specifically called on all Department of Education employees who work in central and field offices to report to work Monday, according to a press release from the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators. (The CSA is the New York branch of the national union for school administrators.) The instruction wasn't entirely well-received at a time when all public schools in the city were shut down, public transit suspended, and parts of the city mandatorily evacuated.
"It's a pretty ridiculous situation," said Russell Murphy, the spokesman for New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez. Murphy acknowledged that the mayor had prepared the city well for the storm, but said that pressuring city employees to go to work was "a little bit out of touch with what's going on today."
The mayor's office could not be reached for comment.
Rodriguez has asked Bloomberg to reconsider the decision, writing on his Facebook page that school staff are "clearly unnecessary" on days when the schools are shut, and that it constitutes "an undue burden which many may not be able to afford."
CSA President Ernest Logan urged his colleagues by email to "exercise good judgment regarding your safety and your families' well-being when deciding whether or not to report to central or field offices."
Even city employees with cars would struggle on their commute, Rodriguez pointed out on Facebook, since certain city highways are under water. "The mayor expects them to swim back home," wrote one commenter.
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