NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Former New York Gov. David Paterson is urging state lawmakers to pass a law that would grant a larger pension to NYPD Officer Rosa Rodriguez, critically injured in a fire in Coney Island last month.
In an interview with WCBS 880’s Steve Scott, Paterson noted that he vetoed a bill in 2009 that would have extended a long-standing pension program for police, saying he believed pensions are “killing our economy” and didn’t feel the police union was negotiating fairly with the state.
As a result, the union and the state settled on a deal that limited the pensions for officers injured in the line of duty to about 40 percent of what they once were.
“Poor Office Rodriguez is going to get a fraction of what she would have gotten years ago,” Paterson said.
Rodriguez, 36, a mother of four, was released from Weill Cornell Medical Center on Monday after being treated for six weeks, which included four days in a coma. Her partner, Officer Dennis Guerra, 38, died from the injuries he suffered in the April 6 fire.
Doctors said the toxic smoke Rodriguez inhaled caused so much damage to her lungs that she needed to be put on a breathing machine for a month. Her doctor, Palmer Bessey, said she still has a long way to go in her recovery.
“This officer is going to need a great deal of care,” Paterson said. “These resources are going to go mostly for her health maintenance, and I think it would be a fine way to tribute a woman who almost lost her life with a partner who did lose his in the line of duty.”
Paterson, who no longer holds political office, suggested that lawmakers in Albany propose and pass legislation making an exception for Rodriguez.
“Should be a one-time-only situation, but with the awareness that this can happen again and that the benefits are so much less than they were before,” the former governor said. “I would suggest that the union come back to the table and find a better way to end the negotiation.
“I don’t think it’s anybody’s fault, but experience teaches us, and I hope it does in this case.”
Police said 16-year-old Marcell Dockery admitted to lighting a mattress on fire in the hallway of the high-rise building because he was bored. Rodriguez and Guerra responded to the fire and were overwhelmed by smoke once an elevator’s doors opened.
Dockery faces several charges, including felony murder, arson, assault and reckless endangerment.
The teen claims through his lawyer that he did not set the fire and the alleged confession was coerced.
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