Today’s news:

Ladder 53 may close

Rumor has it that City Island’s Ladder Company 53 may be on the city budget chopping block again.

The isolated island’s only ladder company, which performs search and rescue operations from 167-69 Schofield Street, was pulled from the chopping block thanks to last minute budget negotiations in June 2009.

But Mayor Bloomberg announced on Thursday, January 28 that that a projected budget shortfall would result in the closure of 20 fire companies as early as July 1, 2010. Elected officials who helped save Ladder 53 in 2009 have rallied around the fire company once more.

“Here we go again!” Councilman Vacca, former chair of the City Council fire and criminal justice committee, said. “In my district, on City Island, closing Ladder 53 would double response times for this isolated community, which is separated from the mainland by two bridges. City Island made its case [last year]. This plan represented a threat to life and limb then, and it represents the same threat now. We won’t stand for it.”

Bloomberg’s 2009 plan met its end when the City Council pumped $16 million into his budget, earmarked for the fire companies. The move followed months of protests, petition drives and town hall meetings organized by Vacca and City Island leaders.

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. expressed renewed concern.

“Reports are once again circulating that Ladder 53 on City Island is slated to be closed,” Diaz said.“City Island is a remote neighborhood with only one access road in and out, and we already know that asking the nearest firehouse to respond to an emergency there would drive the response time up to ten minutes. After we fought so hard last year to protect Ladder 53 from closures, I will not stand by and allow it to be shuttered this year.”

City Island’s Engine 70 would likely remain operational even if Ladder 53 were closed. Barbara Dolensek of the City Island Civic Association said Cassano met with community leaders on City Island to discuss the importance of Ladder 53 more than a year ago.

Reach reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 742-3393 or procchio@cnglocal.com

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