Nannygate in Slope! The hand that rocks the cradle is off-the-books

Nannygate in Slope! The hand that rocks the cradle is off-the-books
The Brooklyn Paper / Tom Callan

Moms and Dads in Park Slope are guilty of Nannygate.

The political scandal from a decade ago — which famously snared plenty of pols for paying their domestic help off the books — is rearing its head as a new survey revealed this week that close to 90 percent of all nannies in the famously liberal neighborhood work in a black market.

Only 14 percent of local parents pay their nannies fully on the books, according to the gorgeously laid-out survey of 806 families compiled by the Park Slope Parents Web site.

The hand that rocks this cradle is working illegally.

And it’s no surprise — or even a cause for concern — among the mostly women who are doing the dirty work.

“Out of the seven families I’ve worked for, only one ever discussed taxes with me,” said Deborah Manwaring, a nanny for 21 years. “Parents are so worried about the cost.”

And taxes aren’t the only disquieting element of Park Slope nanny culture, according to the survey. The International Nanny Association’s most recent study says that nannies in families with one child in New York City make an average of $777 a week. In Park Slope, the average is $548 weekly — and 86 percent aren’t getting benefits, the survey showed.

The earth-shattering survey also revealed that:

• the bad economy has taken its toll on nannies. Salaries are down from last year and fewer nannies have gotten a raise. Last year 55 percent got a raise, this year just 33 percent did.

• only three percent of nannies receive even partial health-care coverage.

• only 33 percent of nannies have written contracts with their employers.

• the difference in salary between nannies who are on the books and those who are paid off the books ranges from 16 cents to $2.18.

On the plus side, the survey also showed that the average full-time nanny gets nearly 20 vacation and holiday days off — paid.

But by far, the most-shocking finding is that so many Park Slope parents are pulling the Zoe Baird and choosing to keep their nannies as undocumented workers.

A whopping 77 percent of couples pay their nannies fully off the books and another nine percent said they pay partly on the books.

Of course, a majority have a perfectly reasonable rationale: Fifty-eight percent of off-the-book employers said that they believe their nannies prefer it this way.

Manwaring isn’t sure that it’s so simple; she’s simply afraid to broach the subject.

“I don’t bring up taxes because they might fire me,” Manwaring said. “With the economy the way it is, I don’t want to be unemployed, so I have no choice.”

The plurality of the 77 percent of parents that pays its nannies fully off the books gave this Rangel-esque defense: 44 percent said the process of paying extra taxes is simply too difficult. Another 38 percent said it would cost them too much money to maintain the nanny’s salary after taxes.

The director of Park Slope Parents, Susan Fox, said that the difficulty of filing taxes on nanny salaries can be intimidating and that paying those taxes can be prohibitively expensive. But the survey indicated that nannies paid on the books only cost about one dollar more per hour than nannies paid under the table.

And as for salaries this year, the survey showed that rates are already going down because parents aren’t willing to pay new nannies as much as they have in the past. Another Park Slope nanny, Mona Supersat, said she works two part-time jobs to maintain a decent salary.

“I’ve been a nanny here for 13 years and finding an employer to pay enough to make a good living wage has never been so difficult,” Supersat said.

Parent and former Park Slope Civic Council President Lydia Denworth was disappointed when she heard that paying off the books has become so common.

“I wasn’t aware that the percentage was that high, but I certainly knew that some people weren’t paying on the books,” Denworth said. “It tells you how much it already costs. Things have gotten tighter for everyone.”

It’s fine for the nannies, of course — as long as they never want to retire on Social Security.