City Island’s FDNY ladder co. spared budget ax

Photo by Patrick Rocchio

After years of annually teetering on the edge of losing their NYFD ladder company, City Islanders can now rejoice.

Mayor de Blasio preliminary budget spares Ladder 53 and 19 other fire companies around the city.

The mayor’s preliminary budget has set aside $59 million specifically for 20 fire companies

that Mayor Bloomberg had wanted to cut since late-2008.

Every fiscal year, Mayor Bloomberg would propose closing the fire companies in his preliminary budget, and each year the City Council would recommend and ultimately get the cuts restored before the final budget was due, as it is every year, on July 1.

Now this part of the “budget dance,” as Councilman Jimmy Vacca, former chairman of the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee has called it, appears to be over.

“After years of contentiousness with Mayor Bloomberg, where every year we were on the chopping block with Ladder 53 on City Island, it appears that those days finally are over,” said Vacca. “The mayor assured us that there will be no proposed fire company cuts, and that they will not be part of the ‘budget dance’ that goes on every year.”

This is good news for City Island, he said. Ladder 53 was named at least once in official documents as being one of the 20 companies that would have been cut under Mayor Bloomberg’s plan.

“I think it is a victory that City Islanders have finally won, and they will not look to fight another day,” he said.

The fight to keep Ladder 53 open spawned two town hall meetings, an evening vigil, rallies in front of the Schofield Street firehouse that Ladder 53 shares with Engine 70, protests on the steps of City Hall, testimony before the City Council committee and letter writing, said Barbara Dolensek, City Island Civic Association vice-president.

“I think that it was never really an option,” she said of attempts to shutter Ladder 53. “We were just glad to hear the news and that Councilman Vacca brought it up with the mayor…it is a good sign.”

Because of City Island’s geographic isolation, and the fact that the ladder companywas forced to remain on the island and not go on off-island runs, the number of runs that Ladder 53 went on was always artificially depressed, the CICA contended.

John Doyle, CICA corresponding secretary, said that it showed that any plan to shutter Ladder 53 was strictly political, and he offered words of gratitude for both former Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Vacca.

“It shows that everything Councilman Jimmy Vacca has always said was true,” said Doyle. “It was never about the fire company, it was about getting a new mayor.”

“People are willing to accept cuts in government,” he added, “but they are not willing to accept cuts to public safety. They are unacceptable.”

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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