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Pandemic-era overtime costs surge at NYC health department, elections board




Pandemic-era overtime costs surge at NYC health department, elections board

Overtime costs skyrocketed at the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Board of Elections last year, new data show.

At the health department — whose budget includes the office of chief medical examiner — overtime shot up 116 percent in fiscal year 2021 that ended June 30 — the most of any major city agency, according to an analysis by the Empire Center for Public Policy.

Meanwhile, OT costs surged by 85 percent at the embattled Board of Elections, which came under fire for a botched vote count in the Democratic primary for mayor.

Last week, the Post reported an 86 percent increase in overtime costs at the Sanitation Department, with the number of workers piling up more than $100,000 in OT jumping from two to 94 in one year.

The number of employees in the Health Department agencies who cleared more than $100,000 in OT jumped from 7 to 21.

“You want to look at those overtime numbers but it has been a special time,” Andrew Rein, president of the Citizens Budget Commission watchdog group, referring to the OT costs incurred by the health agency during the extraordinary coronavirus pandemic.

Stationary engineers for the medical examiner’s office — the folks who handle boilers, heating and ventilation — significantly improved their financial outlook.

The Post reported an 86 percent increase in overtime costs at the Sanitation Department.
AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File

The overtime king was engineer Michael Mcgroarty, whose total pay was $411,222, thanks to a $239,929 haul in OT on top of his base pay of $132,288 and 40,105 in “other pay.”

By comparison, Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi’s salary is $243,171.

Another engineer, Patrick Hallahan, also topped more than $400,000 in total pay thanks to $218,628 in OT and $56,616 in other pay.

The Health Department and Medical Examiner’s office defended the OT explosion as necessary during an unprecedented year when the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the city’s population.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges for our City and Health Department staff have worked around the clock the last two years to keep our city safe and healthy,” said Health Department spokesman Michael Lanza.

Operating engineers employed by Medical Examiners racked up OT to operate four make-shift. portable, 24/7 morgues set up to handle an “unprecedented” increase in deaths from COVID, said spokeswoman Julie Bolcer.

She said the Chief Medical Examiners’ Office was able to get reimbursed for the costs of operating the morgues from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Each of the disaster portable morgues operated 24/7 and required on-site support from our existing stationary engineer workforce to ensure continuity of operations,” Bolcer said.

“Engineer duties included maintaining emergency on-site generators, water supply, and HVAC systems, in addition to their usual work to operate and maintain all the agency’s other facilities and specialized medical and scientific buildings, including forensic pathology centers with autopsy suites, advanced laboratories, and agency administrative offices.”

NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi
NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi’s salary is $243,171.

The Empire Center analysis showed the same employees who perennially rack up OT at the Board of Elections earned even more last year.

Systems analyst Antonio Ortiz, Jr., tallied $217,916 in OT to raise his total pay to $337,565, after making $164,000 in OT the prior year.

The third highest OT earner at the BOE was administrative associate Alvin Samuels, an ex-con who spent six years in prison for an armed robbery of a store clerk who was killed in the stick-up.

Samuels grabbed $158,585 in OT to raise his total pay to $268,449. That’s $51,000 more than the $107,000 in OT he made the previous year.

The Citizen Budget Commission’s Rein said the high overtime costs in the election agency raises flags.

“When you see overtime numbers that high, it certainly raises a question,” Rein said.

“The question going forward is, should there be an adjustment in staffing?”

But Rein also noted that the elections agency has taken on more responsibility, such as staffing nine days of early voting at polling places and implementing ranked-choice voting in primary elections for the first time.

The BOE defended the reliance on overtime as necessary during the pandemic as the agency took on more duties.

“Our Board of Elections staff are essential workers who deserve praise for working tirelessly throughout the entire pandemic to conduct the Elections within the City of New York,” said BOE spokeswoman Valerie Diaz.

“2021 brought us four special elections, each with nine days of early voting, a mayoral primary and general election. We thank our staff for their commitment to the voters of the City of New York.”

The top OT earners could not be reached or declined comment.


Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death




Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence




Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers




Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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