News & Politics

City Jobs Kick Ass (Literally)


The incident occurred on May 24, 2005, a Tuesday, out at I.S. 78 on East 68th Street in Brooklyn. The victim was a New York City Police Department employee. In the city’s accounting of all workers compensation claims in 2005, this particular injury is summoned up in one word: Buttocks.

There were thousands of injuries to civil servants last year. There was the Taxi and Limousine Commission worker who endured injuries described as “multiple neck, multiple injury knees, both trunk, multiple trunk, upper back(thoracic) trunk, low back(lmbr/lmbosac), upper ext, multiple upper ext.” There were the 12 separate injuries at different Health and Hospitals Corporation sites on January 14, 2005 to various knees, eyes, legs, feet, hands, wrists, and arms. And there were the proverbial kicks in the pants. Indeed, it seems New York City employees are, literally, busting their ass for us, because in the report on 2005 workers comp payments (which has been on a city website for months but Power Plays only saw today) there are 240 references to injuries of the rear-end.

It seems no bottom is safe. Workers at the City Council, the Department of Finance, Hunter College, and the Administration for Children Services had buttocks problems, and so did corrections officers, cops, firefighters, DEP workers, and staff at the Department of Homeless Services. In some cases the problem was “multiple buttocks,” and in others just the right or the left.

Of course, most of the injuries for which the city paid workers comp had nothing to do with anyone’s caboose. Back and joint injuries form the majority. While almost every city agency registered some workers comp claims (including the Law Department, which maintains the list), some departments stood out. The Department of Education led the way with $1.8 million paid out in 3,727 cases, followed by HHC ($1.7 million), corrections ($1.2 million), the NYPD ($898,161), DEP ($778,343), and FDNY ($692,067). [When comparing these figures, it’s important to keep in mind the relative size of the departments, as well as the fact that uniformed cops, firefighters, and sanitation workers aren’t covered by workers compensation.] Even the mayor’s office took its lumps, with eight claims costing a slim $913.62, including boo-boos to an elbow, a left hand, a nose, a hip, a right knee, and a right ankle.

The most intriguing case at City Hall, however, might be an injury described only as “multiple” and dated 9-11-2001. Overall, there are 36 injuries dated 9-11 for which workers comp payments were made in 2005. Most of those entries list no details; some are described simply as injuries to the “internal organs” that occurred at the World Trade Center or “Ground Zero.” Borough of Manhattan Community College, the Department of Education, the NYPD, and Department of Citywide Administrative Services each log one 9-11 case, and the parks department and corrections each list two. FDNY has four. The Department of Transportation, however, paid in 24 such cases. Add them up, and they still come to just the tip of the iceberg.

The emergence of hundreds—perhaps thousands—of first responders who have gotten or are getting sick as a result of their 9-11 service means that the city is going to be pressed to pick up the bill for their care and, in too many cases, special death benefits. A lot of the anger in the first responder community is over the city’s failure to monitor the health of the men and women who rushed to Ground Zero. Now, the outraged say, it’s coming back to bite the city you-know-where.

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