A judge Wednesday denied an NYPD union request to temporarily halt a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees. Other labor leaders for police and firefighters predicted catastrophe if Mayor Bill de Blasio holds to Friday’s deadline.
The New York City Police Benevolent Association filed a 37-page petition on Monday in Staten Island State Supreme Court asking for the temporary restraining order.
Union leaders have said that without extending the deadline to get vaccinated against the virus, there will be fewer cops on the street, dozens of closed fire companies and longer response times, all leading to unnecessary deaths.
Labor leaders for the FDNY announced that thousands of firefighters and supporters will participate in a demonstration outside Gracie Mansion on Thursday to protest the mandate.
De Blasio, however, said he expected a “surge of vaccinations” before Friday’s deadline, and department heads have spent months preparing for possible staffing shortages.
“Every one of the commissioners has been absolutely confident that they can make the adjustments,” de Blasio said Wednesday during his daily press briefing. “And every one of the commissioners has adamantly wanted us to move forward with the vaccine mandate. So I feel ready.”
De Blasio told city employees to submit proof of COVID-19 vaccination by 5 p.m. Friday. Those who fail to provide proof will be but on unpaid leave Monday. The city agreed Wednesday to provide health care benefits to firefighters put on unpaid leave for at least 30 days, the union officials said.
On Staten Island Wednesday, state Supreme Court Justice Lizette Colon turned down the PBA ‘s request for a temporary restraining order.
The PBA, which represents 24,000 NYPD cops, said the mandate is unconstitutional.
The NYPD’s COVID-19 vaccination rate has lagged behind some city agencies, but by Wednesday, some 73% of officers had received at least one shot, officials said.
In a statement, the PBA said its lawsuit will continue and it intends to appeal Colon’s ruling.
“Today’s ruling set the city up for a real crisis,” said PBA president Patrick Lynch in a statement. “The haphazard rollout of this mandate has created chaos in the NYPD. City Hall has given no reason that a vaccine mandate with a weekly testing option is no longer enough to protect police officers and the public.”
PBA and the FDNY union officials called on the city to continue weekly testing for employees who are opposed to the COVID-19 vaccination. It was grossly unfair for the mayor to give their members just nine days to decide if they want to retire or get the shots, the union officials said.
“This not only violates police officers’ rights — it will inevitably result in fewer cops available to protect our city,” Lynch said.
Large numbers of firefighters will retire if forced to get the first dose of the vaccine by Friday, according to the FDNY union leaders.
“I don’t think the mayor understands what is going to happen on Nov. 1,” FDNY Firefighters Association president Andrew Ansbro said during a news conference in Manhattan. “There is going to be a catastrophic staffing shortage if 3,500 firefighters that are currently unvaccinated are told not to go to work.”
FDNY Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said the department may have to close as many as 20% of fire companies on Monday and put 20% fewer ambulances on the road because of staffing shortages.
“The department must manage the unfortunate fact that a portion of our workforce has refused to comply with a vaccine mandate for all city employees,” Nigro said in a statement. “We will use all means at our disposal, including mandatory overtime, mutual aid from other EMS providers and significant changes to the schedules of our members. We will ensure the continuity of operations and safety of all those we have sworn oaths to serve.”
Sixty-eight percent of FDNY members have received at least one shot, according to the department.