Bloomberg wants to put brakes on city jobs

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Republican mayoral candidate Michael Bloomberg announced his plans to implement a hiring freeze on city jobs when he stopped by Queens College Monday at an event organized by the school’s student government.

Speaking to a crowd of more than 250 students, Bloomberg outlined his plans if elected to succeed Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and caused a bit of a stir with his proposal to not to hire any more city workers. The freeze would also include not hiring anymore teachers, which would directly affect the city’s struggling educational system.

“We don’t have enough money to do everything we want,” he said. “One of the things we have to do is to step back and say what is going to take us out of this economic problem and I say it is the quarter of a million people who work for the city.”

Bloomberg said the new mayor, who must lead the rebuilding from the World Trade Center disaster, has to find a way to raise the salaries of teachers and other civil workers. The annual education budget is $12 billion and there is no more money coming from the city, state or federal government.

A hiring freeze would enable the city to pay teachers more competitive wages without spending more money, said Bloomberg, who called for figuring out ways to get additional teachers into the classrooms.

“We can’t do everything, so maybe we have to cut back on other services that the schools provide and move teachers into the classroom,” Bloomberg said.

This would enable the city to combat the hiring freeze and teacher retirement without having class size grow, he said.

Bloomberg suggested one approach to helping the city’s students would be devising different programs to educate and teach the children.

The GOP contender said he did not want to cut the city’s work force, which is New York’s main asset.

“Layoffs are a bad thing and it demoralizes your work force,” he said.

A hiring freeze and keeping class sizes at current levels would directly affect Queens, which has the city’s most crowded public schools and utilization rates that range from 5 percent to 40 percent over capacity depending on the district.

Under the leadership of Borough President Claire Shulman, the borough has been fighting to get a number of schools built in each of Queens’ eight school districts in an effort to curb overcrowding. The future does not hold much hope with borough politicians and educators predicting a rise in the student population over the next few years.

Of the 250,000 city employees, Bloomberg said, more than 130,000 work for the Board of Education and with the economic situation facing New York City, there is not enough money to implement raises and hire more workers.

“We are not going to be able to pay the existing people more if you keep hiring,” Bloomberg said. “And my first priority is the quarter million people that work for the city. They deserve raises, they work hard and they are the ones that will take us into the future.”

When a reporter asked Bloomberg about studies that have shown the city will lose almost two-thirds of its teaching staff due to retirement and resignations, he angrily denounced the accuracy of the reports.

“If we do a good job and protect our workers, we won’t have a worse case scenario like that happen,” he said. “And if it does, then you have to address that issue then.”

If people think the city is going to be able to dramatically reduce class size in face of the recent economic slowdown, they are “not looking at the numbers, they are not being the least bit realistic,” Bloomberg said.

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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