GARDEN CITY — The Village of Garden City is known for its beautifully maintained village property; the village is clean, lawns are well manicured and the landscaping is top-notch.

All of these services and more are provided by CSEA members.

“Our members work in almost every area in this village,” said Robert LoDolce, Village of Garden City Unit president. “CSEA members can also be found doing clerical work, in the library and the water department.
This unit covers so many job responsibilities, it would be difficult to mention them all. All of our members put a genuine effort into everything that they do.”

Seeking a fair return
In spite of CSEA members’ exemplary job performance, they have yet to settle a new contract with village
officials. In fact, unit members have been working without a contract since May 2013.

“It really makes us feel disrespected and underappreciated,” said David Shiner.

“There are people in this unit who have worked for Garden City for decades,” said Wayne Trested, Village of Garden City Unit vice president. “When you’ve worked someplace that long; it’s not a job, it’s a career. It’s disheartening to know that our service is being undervalued.”

Members want to make it clear that they are not asking for any more than what is necessary; they simply are looking for a fair return on their work. “The cost of living on Long Island is growing exponentially and our salaries have remained stagnant since our last contract,” said LoDolce.

Further complicating matters, village officials has considered the possibility of further outsourcing union jobs.
“It’s about the quality of work,” said Joe Scappatore. “CSEA members stop to pick up branches or litter on our way to other job sites. Contractors won’t do that. Taking work away from union employees will absolutely effect the aesthetics of the community.”

Outsourcing inevitably costs the village more money than keeping the jobs internal because union employees have to retrace the steps of contracted employees.

“If a union employee prunes a tree, that tree may not have to be re-pruned for seven to 10 years,” said Scappatore. “When contractors prune a tree, guaranteed our members will have to re-prune that tree in three to five years. That costs the town money and keeps our members from doing other work around the village.”

Going the extra step
Village employees have often gone the extra mile to keep Garden City running smoothly, even during emergencies such as Superstorm Sandy.

“There were many times when we would pull up to remove trees from the road and residents would come out of their houses and applaud for us,” said Trested. “One woman said that she couldn’t believe how quickly we cleaned the village up. She had friends that lived in areas where it took much longer to recover.”

Extreme weather situations aren’t the only times that our members heed the call of duty.

“Whether it be a water main break or the dangers of high winds, we leave our families at home to ensure that Garden City’s infrastructure is safe for its residents,” said Stephen Barnych.

Members’ commitment to village residents extends beyond their job titles. Our members routinely help elderly residents cross the street and even come to the aid of a scared spouse.

“We had an elderly woman come to the door of the Sanitation Department crying because her husband wouldn’t wake up,” said LoDolce. “She was too scared to call the police, so we made the phone call for her and stayed with her to make sure she was OK. Luckily, her husband was fine, but that’s just a small example of what this unit does to go beyond the call of duty for this village.”

In the end, workers that don’t have a vested interest in the village will never fully commit to their jobs in the way that CSEA members have, potentially jeopardizing the quality of village services.

“Garden City has a deep sense of community,” said LoDolce. “Many of us don’t live here, but we spend a lot of time here and want village residents to continue to get the quality of service that they deserve.”

— Wendi Bowie

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Wendi Bowie

Wendi Bowie is an award-winning journalist who has focused the majority of her career on covering Long Island news. Her efforts have earned her the Press Club of Long Island Media Award for Public Affairs and the Long Island Coalition for Fair Broadcasting Folio Award. Wendi was drawn to her current position as Communications Specialist for CSEA’s Long Island Region because it speaks to her strong desire to champion the rights of the common man and woman.

1 Comment

  1. I am in total support of our village workers: sanitation, parks, street, recreation. The work of the ‘contracted’ workers (e.g. Con-Kel) is so far below what we are used to in Garden City. I have personally witnessed each of the following: Con-Kel ‘cleaned’ a village park 11 days ago and left the big pile of leaves blocking an entire lane of a village road. It was vacuumed up today by village employees. There is a buffer park behind my house that was just cleaned by Con-Kel; it looks good in the middle, but all the leaves have been blown up against by back gate, so it would be impossible for me to go out into the park. I personally watched them blow the leaves from along St. James South onto the railroad tracks! Wish I had had my phone with me to video the work.
    I’ve lived her 42 years. We have always been blessed with exemplary village employees. It saddens me to see the recent decline in our services.

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