The protest to save 20 firehouses around the city that are set to be axed reached the steps of City Hall once again.
The call by the administration to once again slash funding for 20 ladder companies, with Ladder Company 53 on City Island rumored to be one slated for closure, has once again drawn the ire of elected officials and community leaders.
Coming on the heals of a recent rally outside of Ladder 53 on City Island on Monday, May 9, Councilman Jimmy Vacca once again joined his colleague, City Council Fire and Criminal Justice Committee chairwoman Elizabeth Crowley, on the steps of City Hall to protest the cuts.
“We don’t know where the companies they intend to cut are, so it would affect everyone,” Vacca said. “Someone will wake up in the morning and realize that a company from their firehouse will close. There is no denying when you reduce fire protection at that level, you are talking about reduction in response time, and that means destruction of property and loss of life.”
Vacca said that he is assuming Ladder 53 is one of the companies to be cut, as it was listed on internal FDNY documents in 2009 as one the city was looking to shutter.
Through rallies, petition drives, and a candlelit march, the residents of the City Island protested the planned cuts, and at the eleventh hour the cuts were restored by the City Council in the past two budget cycles.
“We need the ladder truck on City Island, because we have too many wood-framed homes and they are isolated,” said Fred Ramftl, of the City Island Civic Association.
City Island received an extra ladder and engine truck on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8, due to increased traffic to the island’s 34 restaurants, Vacca said, illustrating the need for the company to remain.
Next year, if the proposed reconstruction of the City Island Bridge goes forward, accessing the island community for a ladder company from Co-op City or Throggs Neck could be even worse.
Plans call for a temporary bridge that is smaller than the current three lane bridge which provides the only access by road to City Island, said CICA vice-president Barbara Dolensek.
“There are two other drawbridges that sometimes are up, and this would create issues for a Throggs Neck and or Co-op City ladder company to access City Island,” Dolensek said. “If both bridges are up, we are looking at something like a 15 minute response time.”
The fact that the mayor continues to withhold information as to which firehouses or companies he intends to close hampers the City Council’s ability to deliberate the cuts, Crowley said.
The FDNY declined comment because it had not yet specifically named any fire companies that were slated for closure.