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Ladder 53 may face closure again

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The fight to save City Island’s Ladder 53 may force residents on City Island to take action if cuts to 20 fire companies remain in Mayor Bloomberg’s final budget proposal before negotiations with the city council.

The mayor’s preliminary fiscal budget has a cut of 20 fire companies citywide, and his final budget proposal is due out the week beginning Sunday, April 8, sources said.

If the mayor includes the cuts in his final proposal, it is safe to assume that City Island’s Ladder 53 will be one of the companies to be cut, said Councilman Jimmy Vacca.

“We will have to fight as successfully as we have in the past, because the city council will have to restore the funding,” Vacca said.

The closing of Ladder 53 would double the response time on the island for a ladder company, Vacca said. This would pose a significant safety concern as there is only one road on and off the island, Vacca said. The nearest ladder company for City Island would be in Co-op City, according to published reports.

The cut has been proposed several times since December 2008, when Ladder 53 was named as one of the companies slated for closure in an internal FDNY document, according to published reports.

The community is tired of fighting for Ladder 53, but will do whatever is necessary to make sure the truck and its crew remain in the island’s Schofield Street firehouse, said Fred Ramftl, first vice-president of the City Island Civic Association.

“The city makes millions of dollars a year in tax revenues from City Island,” Ramftl said. “Why don’t they reinvest some of that money back into our community by leaving that fire truck alone?”

The fight to save Ladder 53 is becoming something of an annual ritual in the nautical community, Ramftl said. Councilman Jimmy Vacca’s office is preparing to mobilize the community should the cut be included in the mayor’s final budget proposal, a spokesman for Vacca said at a City Island Civic Association meeting on Tuesday, March 27.

“We have the lowest number of runs in the city because our fire trucks are not allowed to leave City Island,” said Barbara Dolensek, second vice-president of the CICA. “We always feel it is a mistake that City Island makes it onto the list because there is no back up for that ladder company on the island.”

The city is planning to begin construction shortly on a project to rebuild the City Island Bridge, the only route for cars and trucks to access the island, Dolensek said. It is expected to take three years, and because of this, the ladder company is needed now more than ever, Dolensek stated.

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