Mayor Bloomberg's plan to save the city about $55 million by closing 20 fire companies faced stiff opposition Monday as protests mounted outside of City Hall.
Firefighters and City Council members said the move will endanger New Yorkers, and they're calling it a slap in the face this year especially.
“To threaten to close 20 fire companies now as we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is a disgrace,” said Stephen Cassidy of the Uniformed Firefighters Association.
Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano told the City Council Monday that if the cuts go through there will be serious consequences.
“The level of cuts we are facing now, including closure of 20 fire companies, will negatively affect response times to fires and life-threatening medical emergencies,” said Cassano.
Outside of City Hall, Queens Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley agreed.
“To close fire companies today is dangerous, costly and potentially deadly,” said Councilwoman Crowley.
But any goodwill Cassano won evaporated when it became clear that he wasn't willing to tell the council which fire companies will close. He said a list does exist, but he won't share it.
“So you're telling me, like I'm on double secret probation here, that I'll find out after just what the effect of the budget vote that I cast is. And when it comes to public safety, especially when it comes to public safety, that is just not acceptable,” said Brooklyn City Councilmember Lew Fidler.
Some members said they want to use the council's subpoena power or other legal means to obtain the list. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn fired off a letter to Cassano demanding a copy of the list by Tuesday.
The decision to withhold information about the specific fire companies on the chopping block may be a strategic one. If New Yorkers know in advance that a company in their neighborhood may disappear, they're likely to take to the streets in protest.
Cassano said about 90 percent of the department's budget is used to pay for fire and emergency medical services. At this point, he added, there's no way to avoid cutting operations to meet the city's budget demands.