Local 1455, NYC Traffic EmployeesLocal 1455, NYC Traffic EmployeesLocal 1455, NYC Traffic EmployeesLocal 1455, NYC Traffic Employees

Local 1455 to mayor:
Privatize Meters? Fuggetaboutit!

  DOT Traffic Device Maintainers Eric DeAbreu and George Muff (background) of Local 1455 help customize, maintain and repair 4,900 computerized Parkeon muni-meters built
in France for New York City public parking.


PIZZA AND BASEBALL. Chicago and New York share these loves, but their favorite styles are as far apart as the two cities: Deep dish versus thin crust. White Sox and Cubs, Yankees and Mets. Parking meters? Chicago taxpayers and motorists are crying foul over a meter privatization deal by the former mayor that raised a quick $1 billion but robbed future generations of many more billions of dollars in much-needed revenue and raised meter rates from 75 cents an hour to $4.25.

Now New York City is asking to be ripped off the same way - by selling or leasing the city's 50,000 single-space meters and 4,900 muni-meters.

The Traffic Device Maintainers and Parking Meter Service Workers of Local 1455 are hoping New Yorkers are smart enough not to repeat Chicago's biggest privatization blunder.

SAVE MONEY, SAVE JOBS: Local 1455 Pres. Mike DeMarco at DOT repair shop in Maspeth.

Meter sell-off mistake

"Local 1455 and DC37 are fighting all attempts to privatize New York City parking meters for fast cash to help plug the city's budget gap," said Local President Mike DeMarco. "This misguided venture will rob our city when it desperately needs proven and reliable revenue streams." New York City parking meters bring in more than $150 million a year.

TDMs install, maintain and repair parking meters and modernize them from mechanical to electronic. They also maintain and repair computerized muni-meters in-house at a Dept. of Transportation shop in Maspeth, Queens. PMSWs collect over 45 pounds of coins per canister, hauling in $500,000 a day.

Since a managed competition in 1993 proved Local 1455 members are more efficient than outside firms, DOT has contracted in work on road signs.

DeMarco recently met with management, showing that union members can save the city money by converting battery-operated meters to computerized muni-meters over three to five years - a proposal that would avert layoffs. But DOT has been pushing a plan to have a private company do the job over 12 months and threatens to eliminate the jobs of dozens of TDMs.

MODERNIZING METERS from mechanical to electronic is Local 1455 TDM Herman Dayes. Annually, Local 1455 members collect $150 million from meters.

Now the Bloomberg administration is seeking bids for financial advice on a scheme like Chicago's meter fiasco, with a winner to be named March 21. Before New Yorkers believe Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, who wrote an article in Governing magazine pushing the lopsided view that the Chicago mess is a success, they should get the facts.

In 2008 former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley accepted $1.15 billion for leasing the city's 36,000 parking meters for 75 years to the private Chicago Parking Meters firm, a subsidiary of Wall Street's Morgan Stanley bank and its partners. Morgan Stanley was allowed to set the value for the deal, which Windy City taxpayers later learned could make CPM $11.6 billion - money that could have provided services for the people of Chicago. In November, CPM took in another $600 million by selling bonds based on this vast future revenue.

Huge loss for taxpayers

Chicago political leader Scott Wauguespack said the meter sell-off helped with the city’s budget gap for one year, “but we lost the revenue for the next 75 years.” “Privatization rakes in huge rewards for Wall Street investors, but the taxpayers are the losers long after the mayors are gone,” DeMarco said. “Privatizing parking meters makes as much sense as selling your home and renting it back for more money.”

REPAIRED AND TESTED: L. 1455 TDM Maria Maisonet tests and operates each single-space meter so it works properly when reinstalled on city streets.

Chicago’s loss of billions has not stopped cash-strapped Los Angeles and Pittsburgh from using the same greedy bankers to broker similar deals. Leasing public parking is worse than peddling other public assets, because with parking cities give private companies the right to issue tickets and raise parking fees at will. Chicago, for example, has to pay CPM whenever it changes parking regulations.

The massive loss of funds has angered Chicagoans. Political leaders in three communities pushed in vain for a ballot referendum to renegotiate the deal; others are suing to get the meters back.

Real New Yorkers would never root for the Cubs or White Sox, but will they let Bloomberg and the Wall Street gang sell the city a Chicago-style parking meter swindle?

— Public Employee Press, March-April 2011

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 Local 1455, District Council 37, 125 Barclay St., New York, NY 10007.