Twice The Headache – TEAS Contend With Ugly Storm And Dismissive Cops
November 8, 2012
By Joe Maniscalco
Untrained Traffic Enforcement Agents more accoustomed to writing tickets than directing oncoming traffic were nevertheless stuck in the middle of dangerously unlit intersections with little more than a reflective vest and a prayer during the Hurricane Sandy crisis – and the union representing them says that an uncaring NYPD is to blame.
“The way that this department treated those traffic agents is a disgrace,” CWA Local 1182 President Robert Cassar told LaboPress.
In addition to tasking Level 1 personnel with trying to control chaotic intersections left dark as a result of last week’s monster storm, the union says that TEAS were also denied access to necessary equipment, and had no way to communicate with supervisors during long 10-hour shifts after the batteries in their radios died.
“They [NYPD] had no contingency plan for how they were going to utilize the agents or what the agents were going to need,” Cassar said. “They clearly were not prepared for this storm. They were prepared for the cops – but they weren’t prepared for my guys. They didn’t have a contingency plan for my guys and that comes right back to Chief of Transportation Bureau James Tuller.”
Six-year, TEA Angel Diaz experienced the same situation where he struggled to direct traffic during a power outage around the Chambers Street Command in Manhattan.
“A lot of these agents were petrified,” Diaz said. “Safety is a crucial thing, and we want to be able to go home to our families as well.”
According to Diaz, relations between cops and TEAS throughout the storm crisis has been uncomfortable, and charged with “a lot of emotions.”
That tension was perhaps most evident on the snaking gas lines that now punctuate any fuel station that turns on the pumps.
“Many of the police officers have not been giving our members gas in the specified locations for first responders – even though we are first responders,” Cassar said. “We’ve told the department that this is happening, and they claim that they’ve addressed it, but these cops are still doing it. This is a travesty.”
An 1182 member, meanwhile, was reportedly suspended this week following a run-in over a parking spot with an off-duty police officer from the 69th Precinct.
“The police officer took out his badge and asked the agent to move her car,” said Cassar. “He didn’t have a right to do that. They kept her from going to work and they suspended her. I’m extremely proud of the work that our members are doing. They’re out there in the dark, they’re out there in the rain, and they’re doing their job for the citizens of New York. The only thing that we ask is that the New York City Police Department do its job for these members.”
Diaz lamented tensions between cops and TEAS during the hurricane crisis, and said that animosity levels have actually been waning in recent years.
“A lot of police officers know how difficult our job is,” Diaz said. “There was a rivalry between agents and the NYPD years ago, but the situation has gotten so much better.”
But Cassar said that the way his members are being treated is nothing less than shameful.
“The police officers are sitting in vehicles – but our members they want on the blacktop,” Cassar said. “They seem like they don’t care about the safety of these workers.”