Mayor halts 4,500 teacher pink slips

The day before letters were expected in principals’ mailboxes listing teachers to be let go, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said yesterday he will avoid 4,400 layoffs by putting off raises scheduled for the next two years. United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew, however, said there was no agreement to freeze teachers’ pay.

“Laying off thousands of teachers is simply not the answer,” said Bloomberg, who has blamed state education cuts for the proposed layoffs. “It would devastate the school system and erase much of the great progress we’ve made.”

Mulgrew praised Bloomberg’s reversal and agreed to join the mayor in lobbying Albany and Washington for more resources. But neither the UFT nor the principals union agreed to scrap 2 percent annual raises for teachers and principals.

“He does NOT have the power to unilaterally decide on the teachers’ contract, and we have reached NO agreement on his proposal to freeze teacher pay,” Mulgrew said in a statement.

Yet the budgets principals received yesterday — which include cuts of roughly 4 percent — are based on Bloomberg’s new plan.

The UFT is in mediation with the city to work out the terms of its next contract. The teachers’ last contract expired in October. Before the mayor’s call for a wage freeze, City Hall initially asked teachers to take a 2 percent raise — instead of the 4 percent raises given to other unions. The two sides next meet July 21.

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Cuomo starts his ‘cakewalk’ after years of waiting

Going by most accounts (and polls) Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has already been anointed the next governor of New York, so it was no surprise he spent his first day campaigning to the sound of cheering crowds as he marched in the Salute to Israel parade yesterday. A day after announcing his candidacy he also released a 250-page book detailing his views on ethics and financial reform and other issues.

As the son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, he has been itching to bring the family name back into the governor’s office for years. It’s been a long march.

The Queens native came off as brazen in 2002, when he sought the Democratic nomination in the governor’s race against Carl McCall, the party’s favorite.

“It was stepping way ahead of his time in the opinion of many,” said David Birdsell of Baruch College. “They thought he was arrogant, uncoachable.”

Cuomo withdrew but nearly split the party in the process. McCall lost the race and Cuomo has worked to mend fences ever since.

“The Andrew Cuomo story could be written as follows,” said political consultant Hank Sheinkopf, who ran McCall’s 2002 campaign. “Once-brash young man becomes confident public official and confident candidate for governor.

“The care with which he’s organized this campaign comes from that first campaign. Is this a guy who wants to make sure he doesn’t make any mistakes? Absolutely.”

Poll Finds Tea Party Anger Rooted in Issues of Class

The fierce animosity that Tea Party supporters harbor toward Washington and President Obama in particular is rooted in deep pessimism about the direction of the country and the conviction that the policies of the Obama administration are disproportionately directed at helping the poor rather than the middle class or the rich, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Closing Parks Could Cost State Millions: Feds

Federal officials have warned Gov. David Paterson’s administration that New York could lose millions of dollars in funding if it goes forward with plans to close dozens of state parks and historic sites.

The National Parks Service warned Paterson in a letter that closing any state parks that receive federal funding could jeopardize the state’s eligibility to receive future money from the agency. The agency also warned that it could request all federal funds be withheld, including money for education and transportation.

In an open letter Friday, the governor said he would ask the commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to meet with National Parks Service officials to make certain that any spending reductions don’t jeopardize the state’s eligibility for funding.

“In an environment when we have to cut funding to schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and social services, I trust that the National Park Service understands that no area of State spending, including parks and historic sites, could be exempt from reductions,” the letter said.

In a letter dated March 31, the agency’s regional director for the northeast region, Dennis R. Reidenbach, wrote to the governor, saying that because most of the state parks and sites had received money under the Land and Water Conservation Fund or the Federal Lands to Parks Program, closing them would be a violation of rules.

“The public has no less need for recreation opportunities and access to open space in times of economic hardship,” Reidenbach wrote in the letter.

The letter was posted on the Facebook page of U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, an upstate congressman, earlier this week.

The Paterson administration plans to close 41 parks and 14 historic sites because of a projected $9 billion deficit.

The National Parks Service has offered to help Paterson’s staff find ways to avoid shutting the parks while still dealing with funding shortfalls.

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens Says He Will Retire This Summer

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, the court’s oldest member and leader of its liberal bloc, says he will step down when the court finishes its work for the summer. His announcement Friday in Washington had been hinted at for months. It comes 11 days before his 90th birthday.

Brooklyn Borough President Denies Female Discrimination Claim

According to a discrimination lawsuit filed against him in 2007, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz called female staffers incompetent and even referred to a former press secretary as “Tinkerbell.”

He also reportedly kept one staffer on the payroll even though that person regularly failed to show up for work.

Markowitz denied any wrongdoing and claims he’s a fan of the Disney character. He calls the allegation “baseless.”

A former staffer who had been fired by Markowitz told the Daily News “There’s definitely a culture of favoritism,” which she believes is based on gender and color. “That culture is driven by the borough president himself.” Another staffer complained at one point about dirty jokes, including one about a sausage.

Markowitz says there is not an “ol’ boys” mentality in his office. His lawyer claims Markowitz will win the case in court.

City cuts parking placards but Ed. Dept. gets increase

AM New York|The city is reducing the number of parking placards it gives out to its employees, though the Department of Education bucked the trend, getting more than 1,000 additional permits this year.

Public school employees who travel between schools during the day — such as physical therapists and speech pathologists — were added to the rolls this year, bringing to 12,285 the number of permits issued to the Department of Education, according to the mayor’s office. In each of the previous two year, 11,150 were give to the DOE.

“We revised the number of DOE placards after the itinerant employees made a compelling case why they should have them,” said Jason Post, a spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

A DOE spokeswoman declined to comment.

The 63,003 total placards handed out this year is still down significantly from the nearly 144,000 issued in 2007. In that year, 64,000 permits were issued to DOE workers alone.

“In general I think they shouldn’t be used at all,” said Manhattan resident, Christopher Davis, 43. “People should have to deal with the traffic and the congestion like the rest of us.”

Public scrutiny of the placards reached a crescendo in 2007 after a stream of reports about misuse of the permits and the release of a Transportation Alternatives study that found 77 percent of placard holders were using them illegally.

In 2008, the Bloomberg administration slashed the number of permits by 54 percent.