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Mayor de Blasio’s office gave out $3.6M in raises to City Hall staffers last year

2019-09-06

Mayor Bill de Blasio defends the $3.6 million in raises his full-time staffers in the mayor’s office received in the last fiscal year. (Barry Williams/for New York Daily News)

It pays to be one of Mayor de Blasio’s flunkies.

Full-time staffers in the mayor’s office got a combined $3.6 million in raises last fiscal year – and 32 of them saw pay bumps of 20% or more, according to a Daily News analysis of city records.

Sixteen of Hizzoner’s employees collected raises over $31,200 — the annual income for New Yorkers earning the minimum wage of $15 an hour.

The News compared base pay for staffers who worked for the mayor’s office in both fiscal years 2018 and 2019. In all, raises were given to 452 of the 634 full-time, annual employees who were the payroll in fiscal year 2019, which ran from July 2018 to this past June.

Aissata Camara, a deputy commissioner at the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, saw a whopping $50,264 raise in fiscal year 2019, when her salary grew to $125,154 after landing the new gig.

Aissata Camara, a deputy commissioner at the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs
Aissata Camara, a deputy commissioner at the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs (Mayor's Office)

De Blasio spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein’s salary jumped to $185,000 after getting a $50,000 raise when she was named press secretary.

May Malik, a deputy commissioner at the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, got a $43,570 raise and her salary is now $119,939. And agency counsels Barbara DiFiore and Michael Alperstein both saw raises of $42,528 and now make $150,000. All three received the raises when they got new jobs.

Even Gracie Mansion chef Feliberto Estevez got a pay boost. His salary rose to $123,537 last fiscal year.

Vicki Been earned the largest raise because she collected just $1 in 2018 when she was advising the city on housing issues, records show. Been’s salary grew to $244,642 after she was appointed deputy mayor for housing and economic development in April.

Combined raises dolled out by the mayor’s office grew dramatically last year.

“The increases certainly exceed growth in cost of living and wages for your average New Yorker,” said Maria Doulis, a vice president at independent watchdog the Citizens Budget Commission.

May Malik, a deputy commissioner at the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs
May Malik, a deputy commissioner at the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (Twitter)

The increase last year was driven by raises given to so-called “special assistants” – a vaguely-titled job given to de Blasio cronies.

Special assistants got nearly $1.9 million in combined raises last year – more than half of all salary bumps in the mayor’s office.

The average raise was $7,161.53 for all mayoral staffers and $7,392.05 for special assistants in the office.

Because the title of special assistant isn’t a civil service gig – and isn’t covered by the same rules as those jobs – there isn’t a cap on how many de Blasio can appoint and City Hall has leeway over how salaries and raises are given.

De Blasio has dramatically grown the number of special assistants since his election in 2013, when former Mayor Bloomberg left office with just 109 of the loosely-titled aides.

The mayor employed 332 special assistants last year, up 204% since 2013. De Blasio’s office had 217 special assistants in 2015, his first full fiscal year in office.

Gracie Mansion executive chef Feliberto Estevez
Gracie Mansion executive chef Feliberto Estevez

Total pay to all special assistants in the office was $25.6 million last fiscal year – a 68% increase since 2015. Pay for all mayor’s office staffers was $52 million last year, a 26% bump since 2015.

The mayor’s office pointed out that all managers who started before September 24, 2018, got a 2.25% raise last year to keep them apace with city workers covered under a contract with District Council 37.

But 389 mayor’s office staffers got raises of 4% or more.

“The dedicated public servants who deliver for New Yorkers every day deserve fair compensation,” de Blasio spokeswoman Laura Feyer said. “Whether you work in government or the private sector, it is common practice to get a raise when you get a new job with increased responsibility.”

City records still show some staffers got raises without changing jobs. First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan, for instance, got a 4% raise of $11,523 last year.

“I suppose the raises are justified — someone has to run the city while he’s out wandering the Nevada desert and eating meat on a stick in Iowa,” quipped Councilman Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island), who’s running for public advocate. “But seriously, it may be imprudent to be doling out raises of this size and scope while the city could not afford this scale with its unionized workforce.”

The spike in raises in fiscal year 2019 is partially due to high turnover at the mayor’s office since last summer, when de Blasio began flirting with his national ambitions before officially launching a presidential campaign this May.

Ninety-one staffers who got raises no longer work for the mayor’s office, according to payroll records.

De Blasio’s presidential campaign hired at least six former City Hall staffers, including five who saw pay bumps last fiscal year.

The campaign’s digital director, Jess Moore Matthews, got a $59,543 raise when she moved to the mayor’s office to become the city’s chief content officer last summer, records show.

De Blasio 2020 spokeswoman Jaclyn Rothenberg got a $30,402 raise when she left the Human Resources Administration to work for the mayor’s office before leaving for the campaign in July.

Ex-deputy director of executive operations Alexandra Kopel collected a $22,000 raise before leaving City Hall to work for de Blasio 2020. The campaign’s travelling press secretary, Olivia Lapeyrolerie, got a $13,448 raise before she left the mayor’s office.

And campaign senior adviser John Paul Lupo got a $9,105 raise last year when he was the director of intergovernmental affairs.