Overnight Firehouse Closures On The Table, Again
More than a dozen fire companies are facing reduced overnight hours under Mayor Bloomberg's plan to trim the city's hemorrhaging budget. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.
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Long-time South Beach resident Edward Mariani lives just blocks from Staten Island's Engine 161. He says firefighters have been to his home for several emergencies in the last couple of years, most of them at night. He says the fire company is an essential part of the community and says closing it at night to save the city money should not be an option.
"It's just unbelievable how they can do things like that. There must be other ways that you can save money," Mariani said.
Last year, four companies were temporarily closed overnight to save money: Engine 4 in Lower Manhattan, Engine 271 serving the Ridgewood neighborhood in Brooklyn and Queens, Engine 53 on City Island in the Bronx and Engine 161 on Staten Island.
The mayor's preliminary budget calls for closing a total of 20 fire companies at night, but the New York City Fire Department hasn't said which ones. Sources familiar with the plan say those four companies will likely be on the list.
"We haven't decided what companies; we haven't decided whether it's gonna be 20 permanent companies or be a combination of some permanent companies and some rotating companies. We're looking at the statistics," said FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano.
Cassano says his department will study response times, population, the number of calls a company gets, and how many fires it responds to in order to determine which companies to close.
City Councilman James Oddo says the process should be open to everyone.
"We should be willing to say we're gonna have a public conversation, we're gonna have labor at the table, we're gonna have outside experts, we're gonna have the current leadership of department and we're gonna have a frank conversation why we're gonna do the things that we want to do with this department," Oddo said.
This is the third time in recent years the city has said it plans to shut fire companies, either permanently or at night.
"More fatal fires happen at night than any time. More fires happen at night than any time. I guess the message from the fire commissioner and this administration is don't have a fire or a heart attack at night," said Uniformed Firefighters Association President Steve Cassidy.
Each time the mayor proposed shutting fire companies they were saved during City Council budget negotiations.
It's unclear whether that can happen again.