The highest-paid public employee in New York City was not Mayor Bill de Blasio, not the police commissioner, or the school chancellor. It was a sewer worker named Bhavesh Patel.
Patel pulled in $539,098 in total wages last year, which was actually more than the mayor and police commissioner combined. As the New York Post reported, he had to put in 1,992 hours of overtime on top of his 2,086 regular hours — a rate of close to 80 hours a week total for all 52 weeks of the year. That means he had to work nearly 16 hours every single day, all in and around the New York City sewers.
As the city’s Department of Environmental Protection noted, it’s not an easy job.
“New York’s sewers run 24 hours a day with more than 1 billion gallons of wastewater and these engineers protect public health by ensuring it all flows in the right direction,” DEP spokesman Ted Timbers told the New York Post.
Patel’s salary is a matter of public record, and the list of highest-paid public employees in New York state is published by the watchdog group Empire Center on the organization’s website. It shows that highest-paid public employee in the state is Candace Johnson, the president and CEO of Buffalo’s Roswell Park Cancer Center, who took in $1.2 million in total wages last year. The next 28 people on the list are also top brass at Roswell Park, which has a reputation as one of the best cancer treatment centers in the Northeast. Patel was No. 29 for the entire state.
It’s not unusual for NYC sewer workers to rank among the top-paid public employees in the state. In 2011, another sewer worker named Gerald Mistretta made $771,841 while several of his co-workers made $500,000 or more. As the New York Daily News noted, that year had some special circumstances as the city agreed to a wage settlement with the sewer workers.
Before that year Mistretta, a Brooklyn father, had gone 16 years without getting a raise.
“I know it looks like a whole lot of money,” Mistretta told the New York Daily News. “But people don’t realize the hardships we went through.
“It was a very difficult period. We have families, and colleges to pay for, and mortgages.”
This NYC sewer worker made over $530K last year: https://t.co/Yxhp56uobB— Vincent E Davis (@vdavis114) October 6, 2018
Bhavesh Patel was not alone among the high-earning sewer workers for this year. As the New York Post noted, nearly half of the city’s 207 stationary engineers put in more than 400 hours of overtime. Of that group, 37 people made more than $100,000. That includes Christopher Laudando, a senior station engineer who made $516,312 last year.