The de Blasio administration did not have the best relationship with the city’s correction officers’ union. But in two weeks, that’s all changed.
"To state that I am placating, those who know me know I do not placate,” said Mayor Eric Adams. "I respect union workers.”
Adams says a change in direction on Rikers Island is not a sign that he is bowing to the city’s correction officers’ unions.
It comes as some critics and advocates claim the correction officers’ union is exerting more control over the city’s troubled jail complex, it's a message coming from the outgoing commissioner.
“I find there are some really troubling signs at the Department of Correction from the new administration,” said Vincent Schiraldi, who left the department when Adams took over City Hall.
Since then, the new commissioner, Louis Molina, has reversed a strict sick leave policy installed by the previous administration, fired a deputy commissioner overseeing officer discipline and continued the use of solitary confinement on Rikers, which was supposed to have ended.
All of those changes were supported by the city’s correction officers’ union.
“I think the union had a lot of legitimate demands for their members to be taken care of,” Schiraldi said. "I think some of these changes are illegitimate. You should not have the ability not to prove that you are sick when you have unlimited sick leave. You should not be able to avoid investigation if you’ve used force. And these changes smack of both of these things at a time when this department is in very difficult straits.”
It’s criticism the mayor does not seem concerned with.
"I am going to hire the best person for the job, and I did, Commissioner Molina,” he said on Friday. “And he is going to staff up so we can turn around Rikers Island in a very humane way.”
The head of the correction officers’ union did not want to go on camera for this story, but in an event last week, the unions were clear they were pleased with the new direction.
“We’re grateful for the new mayor that has stuck with us, stuck by us, stood up for us, spoke up for us, said some positive things,” said Benny Boscio, the president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association.
Meanwhile, violence continues on Rikers.
Last year, the number of stabbings and slashing skyrocketed to 420 from 94 a few years before.
And the staffing crisis continues as well.
In December, on average every day 45 people were working triple shifts.
And on Wednesday, almost 37% of uniformed staff were unable to work with detainees in the jail for a number of different reasons, the vast majority were out sick.