They're not driving Miss Daisy, but city workers are certainly taking taxpayers for a ride.
Nearly 2,500 municipal workers took city cars to and from work last year. The Department of Environmental Protection gave out the most free rides at taxpayers' expense, followed by the Housing Authority and the Buildings Department, according to tax records obtained by the Daily News.
The city argues the free rides – and free cars for high-level administrators – are actually time savers in the long run, which benefits the taxpayers.
Building spokesman Tony Sclafani told the News it saves time and resources when inspectors can take their cars home with them because they can just go straight to an inspection site first thing in the morning. And DEP spokeswoman Anny Canty told the paper that the practice is a positive because workers at her department are expected to be at any place at any time in response to emergencies, so it behooves the city to allow them to go straight to a potentially hazardous situation than drive to the office first.
Agency heads report anywhere from $5,250 worth of commuting on the taxpayers' dime to more than $10,000. Deputy Correction Commissioner Stephen Morello topped the charts, reporting $11,549 worth of commuting in 2008, reports the News.
While officials with their own city cars or lower-ranking workers who use them to commute have to pay taxes on mileage and other services, it doesn't amount to much. The total taxable worth of free rides was less than $1.5 million, reports the News.
That stat has some taxpayers infuriated. So does the whole concept of free rides in the first place.
"It's an employee perk the taxpayer can't afford," Dick Dadey, who works with the watchdog organization Citizens Union, told the News. "It's not just that in tough fiscal times it shouldn't be allowed – it shouldn't be allowed at all."