Health and Safety

Civil Service Snafu Puts ACS Kids at Risk

NEW YORK, NY (LABORPRESS) — The point man for environmental “remediation” at the Administration for Childrens Services (ACS) has been relieved of his job duties, in the middle of ongoing projects involving asbestos, lead, and mold hazards to children in dozens of ACS day care centers. Jonathan Silverstein, an Associate Project Manager, received notice on September 14 that, because of a directive from the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) he could no longer continue serving provisionally in his title and must instead be “bumped” down to the only city title in which he has permanent tenure status, Eligibility Specialist. The bump will reduce Silverstein’s salary from $72,000 to $35,000, reassign him to an intake center for social services, and take him off the environmental beat. But ACS has no one to replace him. No one in their environmental section has the certifications needed to do the job. Silverstein is certified as a lead-based paint inspector, risk assessor, and asbestos inspector.

Silverstein’s job is one of the most sensitive in ACS. When any child is found to have been lead poisoned, it’s his duty to investigate the day care facility and initiate repairs to “remediate” the hazard. ACS oversees approximately 600 daycare centers serving thousands of children. Silverstein oversees the clean-up of asbestos, lead, and mold in daycare centers when hazardous levels are found, pursuant to Local Law 1 of 2004. He certifies that centers, once “remediation” is performed, are ready to be re-occupied. He’s also involved in construction projects as City daycare center, including one where he is overseeing asbestos removal on a $300,000 roof replacement. His boss, Anil Bhanote, has no one to continue to do this work. Silverstein raised the issue of his being relieved of sensitive duties with ACS Deputy Commissioner Hayden Blades, who told him that ACS “may have to go out and hire a consultant.”
Local 375, DC 37, AFSCME, the union representing Silverstein, has raised the issue with Jean Brewer, an official at the City’s Office of Labor Relations, but there has been no action on the City’s part to date. Michelle Keller, Local 375 Vice President, asked Brewer what the City would do to protect the children in the day care centers where asbestos, lead, and mold hazards exist. Brewer promised an answer within 24 hours. A week later, Local 375 is still waiting. Keller called the City’s lack of response “disrespectful and irresponsible.” Local 375 President Claude Fort left a message for Brewer and is now considering legal action to protect the public ans secure union jobs.

DCAS is charged with reducing the number of provisional employees in City service – people who have not been hired off of a civil service list as the result of an exam – but Silverstein’s demotion raises issues of whether compliance with civil service rules is trumping issues of health and safety, Fort said. “We are champions of civil service law,” he said, “but this case raises questions of obligation to public health which must be addressed. Mr. Silverstein has taken and passed the Associate Project Manager exam – the City should keep him in title and allow him to continue serving until the exam is graded and a new list promulgated.”

September 25, 2009

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