EXCLUSIVE: Sex-crazed male NYC Parks Dept. bosses urged female workers — who were mostly low-income single moms — to strip & pole dance at wild holiday parties for better paying jobs on Randall's Island.
'It was out of control,' said a female worker who attended several of the parties. News of the shocking get-togethers, which date to at least 2009, follows bombshell sexual harassment complaints.
At left, a Parks Department worker dances at a Christmas party on a portable stripper pole at "five borough" a parks-owned facility on Randalls Island. At right, another photo from the party. More recent ones featured groping, sources said. Someone allegedly demanded that workers get on the strip pole if they wanted jobs.
A stripper pole, free-flowing booze and female city employees performing sexy tricks are just a few staples at raunchy holiday parties hosted by Parks Department supervisors, according to the New York Daily News.
Seasonal employees — some disrobing down to their bras and panties — tantalized as many as 10 men at a time during Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations going back to at least 2009, a Daily News investigation found.
The clandestine parties were held in a so-called “boom boom” room at a city-owned facility on Randalls Island. And the seasonal workers who “got on the pole” were rewarded with additional work or permanent jobs, sources told The News.
A female worker who attended several of the parties said they got steamier each year.
PARKS & SEX - Front page of today's Daily News.
A worker who skipped one of the parties was asked to come by a female colleague.
“The men started demanding a lot more. They were like, ‘You want us to give you money, show us something,’ ” she recalled. “And for the New Year’s party, it got really grabby. Some women stripped to their panties and bras, and men were slapping asses. It was out of control.”
She asked not to be identified because she feared retaliation.
The city Department of Investigation launched a probe into the holiday party shenanigans. It is also investigating bombshell sexual harassment complaints, including a woman’s allegation that a supervisor accosted her when they were alone in an elevator. He lifted her shirt and ran his tongue across her stomach before shoving his face in her crotch, according to the complaint.
Dilcy Benn, president of District Council 37 Local 1505, the union that represents the workers who filed complaints, said the department immediately moved them. “I will do anything to protect my members and fight for them," she said. (Photo: Andrew Savulich/New York Daily News)
Another complained about sexually suggestive texts and inappropriate contact from supervisors, including one who would snap her bra straps.
Parks and Recreation Department spokesman Arthur Pincus told The News that the two female workers were transferred at their request.
“On Wednesday, May 22, the Parks Department was made aware of sexual harassment allegations made by one full-time and one seasonal female parks worker against two male supervisors in the Five-Borough Technical Services division. Parks immediately referred the matter to the Department of Investigation,” he said.
The two male supervisors named by the female workers are James Cafaro, a deputy chief of operations, and his supervisor, Angelo Figueroa, sources said. The men didn’t respond to calls for comment. Both have been transferred pending the outcome of the investigation. Sources said each has called out of work for the rest of the week.
High-ranking Parks Department official James Cafaro, who is married with children, shoved a $20 bill in the pants of one worker at one of the sleazy parties, sources said. (Photo: Joe Marino/New York Daily News)
For years, as the official holiday party took place on the second floor of the low-level Parks Department building, Cafaro, Figueroa, another male supervisor and several other male workers would set up the X-rated recreation a flight below, sources said.
The crew fashioned a temporary stripper’s pole out of a huge wire spool and pieces of wood left in the telecommunications room. A short ladder was set up to allow access to the pole platform, and once the booze started flowing, women were encouraged to climb up.
According to one female worker, a man at last year’s Christmas party yelled: “If you want a job, get on the pole.”
Many of the female workers in the Parks Department are low-income single mothers desperate for the work.
Cafaro, 53, married with children, started in the Parks Department in 1986 and makes $103,864 a year. He moved steadily up the ladder — but was demoted in 1997 for an impropriety involving an agency employee and a Parks vehicle. Details weren’t immediately available. In 2005 he reached his current mid-level management position.
He oversees about 80 workers, about 30 of them who toil at city parks. Of those assigned to work at parks, most are women who clean pools, rake leaves or prepare properties for a given season, officials said.
“I will do anything to protect my members, and fight for them. When these women came forward we got them out,” said Dilcy Benn, president of District Council 37 Local 1505, the union that represents the workers who filed complaints.
“I brought this to (Assistant Commissioner) David Stark and to his credit within two minutes he made a phone call and moved them.”
Cafaro laughed and enjoyed himself during at least three strip parties in recent years, as two or three female staffers took turns performing on the pole to the hoots and hollers of other male supervisors and Parks Department workers. He even shoved a $20 bill in the pants of one worker, sources said.
Parks supervisor Angelo Figueroa is one of the men named in sexual harassment complaints. One female worker alleged that a supervisor would pull her bra strap, and another said a supervisor who accosted her in an elevator lifted her shirt and ran his tongue across her stomach before shoving his face in her crotch.
One woman made “a couple hundred bucks” during one party and shared it with her female colleagues, the sources said.
For the parties last December and New Year’s Eve, the men turned off the overhead lights, set up up a disco strobe and came prepared with plenty of dollar bills, the sources said.
There was never a direct order from Cafaro or Figueroa for the women to participate, said Benn. But the seasonal workers get asked back for jobs or offered permanent positions based on the recommendations of Cafaro and Figueroa, she said.
Many of the women are low-income single mothers, some of whom came into the job through the welfare system and are desperate to keep the seasonal positions that can run anywhere from four to six months at a time.
The most junior positions start at $9, and city seasonal workers, who Benn represents, get $14 an hour. Cafaro tacitly encouraged women to go along with the suggestive atmosphere by rewarding those who stripped down to their skivvies and danced on the pole with more work, Benn said.
The parties were said to be held in a "boom boom" room at "five borough" (above) a parks-owned facility on Randalls Island. (Photo: Norman Y. Lono for New York Daily News)
One of the women, who started out as a temporary, six-month hire in 2009, danced on the pole at that year’s Christmas party. But when she rebuffed Cafaro’s alleged sexual overture in the elevator, she wasn’t asked back for two years. When she returned in time for last Christmas, she danced again at the annual party — and got offered a permanent position.
Another worker, a single mother who refused to flirt with Cafaro, showed the Daily News text messages she said were exchanged between her and the deputy chief over the course of her six-month seasonal job that ended this month.
The texts range from creepy to overtly sexual.
In one exchange, Cafaro said he was going home.
“Want to come with me?” he texted.
The staffer declined.
“Will u make it up to me?” he wrote.
The worker didn’t go to the “boom boom” room last Christmas, which prompted another female colleague to text her to come down, adding that she was “at the strip party downstairs.”
The abuse within the Parks and Recreation Department isn’t just sexual, Benn said.
A female supervisor at Randalls Island — who gave training about employee rights — was caught on tape screaming that her job wasn’t “to f---ing babysit” staffers.
The supervisor, identified by sources as Kate Boland, then dared workers to call the union.
The move backfired, Benn said.
“Our members were brave and called for us and we came,” she said.
Alleged texts between Parks Department Deputy Chief of Operations James Cafaro and a seasonal worker:
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