Ladder 53 fight went Hollywood

The plight of Ladder 53 and firehouses from around the city that were recently spared the budget axe has gone Hollywood.

During the most recent budget negotiations that left the future of Ladder Company 53 on City Island in jeopardy, Country Club filmmaker Erik Spink chronicled the story of City Island residents who were concerned with the possible closing and increased response times to fire emergencies requiring a ladder truck.

Spink’s latest film, “Response Time,” clocks in at just around 12 minutes, which is what the filmmaker estimates is the response time of the next nearest ladder company to the island, located in Co-op City.

In the documentary, he interviews three longtime City Island residents and Councilman Jimmy Vacca about their views on how the proposed cut would have affected public safety on the isolated island community.

Inter-cut with stock footage that features a big city fire department training film from the 1930s, the viewer is reminded that while most fires that any company responds to are of little consequence, you can never know when the “big one” is going to hit.

“I had been aware of the possibility of fire company closures for the past three years, including Ladder 53,” Spink said. “When I saw an article following a May 9 rally to save Ladder 53, I thought that I could bring something unique to the audience with a documentary.”

The project came about after a chance meeting between he and Councilman Jimmy Vacca at a City Island Theater Group production, where he heard Vacca give a speech about the importance of keeping the ladder company open to protect life and limb.

He contacted Vacca about the possibility of making a film, asking the councilman’s advice as to how he could best tell the story about the cut that has been proposed in the city budget in each of the past three years.

Vacca put Spink in touch with the City Island Civic Association, whose members Barbara Dolensek, Ed Sadler, and Helen Anderson agreed to be interviewed on camera.

“The idea was to find people to narrate the story and to give the thread that runs through the story and tells us what is at risk,” Spink said. “Lives are at the top of the list of what is at risk, but beneath that are is there is also the nautical museum, houses and culture of City Island, which could potentially be harmed by this cut.”

There is a very special “New-England-esque” type of atmosphere on City Island which is unique and yet still part of the flavor of the Bronx, Spink said.

If the budget cut to Ladder 53 is proposed again next year, the film will take on added significance, Spink stated.

To view the film, visit

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