Borough Brawl Over Fire Companies?
June 4th, 2010

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Photo (cc) 2005 icopythat

Members of the City Council Queens delegation spatted with fellow council members this morning during a budget hearing on the proposed closure of 20 fire companies.

Arguing that Queens and Staten Island have the worst response times — 4 minutes and 20 seconds and 4 minutes and 50 seconds, respectively, for structural fires as of April 2010 — Councilmember Dan Halloran of Queens said the Fire Department shouldn’t shutter any companies in those boroughs if it was trying to create the smallest impact with its proposed closures.

“Removing any fire companies from those two would of course increase response times, and I say this with all due respect to my lovely friends in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan, but understand our response times are almost a minute higher than Brooklyn’s,” said Halloran. “Given what you just said, it begs the question: Queens and Staten Island are off the table, is that accurate?

As Halloran went on, Councilmember Letitia James of Brooklyn shook her head left to right, mouthing the word “no.” (Brooklyn, as of April 2010, has the lowest response time for structural fires at 3 minutes and 33 seconds.

Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano, however, took a pass: “One thing I am not going to do is get into a five borough fight.”

Trying to smother the flames, Minority Leader Jimmy Oddo of Staten Island said the council would be fighting the fire company closures as a collective body.

“There is no borough versus borough,” Oddo said. “Last year there was a coalition that was built. … There is no divide between and among this council, and that is the same coalition that will we need to fight this and win this. We did it last year, and we’re going to do it this year.”

With just over three weeks left until the budget deadline, members of the City Council are squirming to know what fire companies could close in fiscal year 2011. In the mayor’s executive budget released in May, the Bloomberg adminsitration proposed to shutter 20 companies to save the city about $6.7 million. In total, the department faces about $30 million in cuts for fiscal year 2011, which increases to $41 million the following fiscal year.

Pressed by council members to reveal what fire companies he is considering for closure, Cassano said the department was conducting an analysis on what companies it could close with the smallest impact on the rest of the city. They are using several criteria, including what the projected response times would be in the surrounding communities should a company close and the number of incidents responded to in 2009.

Though the department had released a list of companies to close last year when they were faced with similar cuts, Cassano said they have started “from scratch” this year.

One thing was for certain, every neighborhood would feel the pain.

“We will be hard pressed to perform like we have in the past,” said Cassano, guaranteeing an increase in response times citywide. “Every councilmember, every community board will be affected.”

Cassano refused to tell council members when they might see the list of closures. He only said when the department knew how many companies it had to shutter it would release a list. The list, he assured the council, would be in their hands before they had to vote on the budget.

By law, the department has to give council members 45 days notice if it decides to shut a company.

By on June 4, 2010, 5:25 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Crime & Safety,Economy,Gotham City,Governing,Measuring UP,nextNY,Public Finance,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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2 Responses to “Borough Brawl Over Fire Companies?”

  1. Larry Littlefield Says:
    June 6th, 2010 at 11:45 am

    More money for retired firefighters means less money for active firefighters. Same for cops, teachers, parks department workers, etc.

    The game plan might have been for higher and higher taxes to pay for this, but a recession means taxes are reaching a limit. So here we are.

    Will anyone at the City Council question the deals and non-decisions that were made in the pension system, rather than demanding that money fall out of the sky?

  2. Ralph Winsor Says:
    January 4th, 2012 at 6:13 am

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