New York City Fire Department officials say they are going forward with their budgets cuts, even as City Council members vowed to fight the closing of fire companies.
During testimony at a City Council hearing Wednesday, Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said 20 fire companies are facing closure as a result of the mayor's 2011 budget plan.
The state's additional upcoming budget cuts to city aid could force a total of 62 fire companies onto the chopping block.
The initial cuts are slated to take effect on July 1, following negotiations with the City Council.
"I don't think anybody in the city wants to close a fire company, but you know when you are making difficult choices," said Cassano, seen right. "It's not only New York that's making these cuts, there's fire companies throughout the country that are reducing their staffing."
Meanwhile, City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, local lawmakers and firefighter union leaders gathered on the steps of City Hall Wednesday morning to call on officials to reconsider the cuts.
Uniformed Firefighters Association President Steve Cassidy said the mayor and fire officials are leaving firemen with a huge burden.
"The taxpayers of New York deserve to have their firehouse stay open," said Cassidy. "And when someone dials 9-1-1, when they have an emergency, medical or fire, they should hope that a New York City fire company doesn't have to drive past a closed fire company to get to them, because seconds count."
"I don’t understand the reasoning why the fire department is part of a budget dance. I don’t understand it, and I’m very much outraged at this," said City Councilman James Vacca. "Do you mean every year, the fire department budget is going to be cut, and the city council has to restore, year by year?"
Meanwhile, the iconic fire alarm boxes on city streets may soon be a thing of the past.
Cassano said FDNY officials plan to deactivate the boxes as a cost-cutting measure to save at least $6 million a year.