Mayor Bloomberg's proposal to close 20 fire companies in order to save $59 million in the city budget is taking fire from City Council members and the city's fire commissioner. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.
It's happened for four years in a row and this year's budget is no different.
Once again, Mayor Bloomberg wants to shutter 20 fire companies in an effort to save $59 million in next year's budget.
"Our job is not to spend as much money as we can," the mayor said on May 3. "Our job is not to hire as many people as we can. Our job is to provide the services the public deserves and to do it as economically as possible. "
It's a proposal that is setting off alarms at the City Council.
"The City Council knows that closing fire companies will increase response times to life-threatening emergencies," said City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley of Queens. "Closing even one company will jeopardize the safety of city residents and visitors."
And it doesn't sit well with the city's fire commissioner either.
"The amount of resources that I have will be judged by the budget that I'm given," said Salvatore Cassano. "I would like to keep as many resources that I can."
Testifying before the council on Friday, the commissioner said it would raise response times as much as 20 or 30 seconds in some neighborhoods.
"It will be extremely challenging to maintain the same levels of service to the communities we serve," he said.
In the past, the council has come to the rescue and restored funding. This year, it's identified the closures as one of its top budget priorities.
Meanwhile, the FDNY is trying to make ends meet elsewhere. It wants to charge private hospitals for the use of the city's 911 dispatch service, it is trying to settle unpaid bills from uninsured individuals who haven't paid for emergency services and it hopes to increase inspection costs for low rise buildings.
All of this is planned on top of the potential company closures.
The fire department must give the City Council 45 days notice before they close any fire company. So far, the fire commissioner has given no indication when they might provide that list to the City Council.