Ladder 53, once again, fair game

After thinking they werebelieving it was in the clear, it appears that Ladder 53 might once again be on the chopping block.

The City Island ladder company looked like it had been spared the budget ax for the upcoming fiscal year, after a deal worked out by the City Council and the Mayor’s office in January saved 20 fire companies from being closed through the re-allocation of $585 million in savings from other areas.

Now it appears that the deal may have fallen apart, with the Mayor’s preliminary budget for the upcoming fiscal year showing that his administration plans on making draconian cuts to services, including closing 20 ladder companies and 100 senior centers.

While Ladder 53 was never mentioned by name, it is safe to assume that it would be one of the companies closed because it was mentioned in an internal FDNY document in 2009 when cuts were planned for firehouses then. The ladder company was even closed at night for several months during the first half of 2009.

“We have argued time and time again that closing Ladder 53 would endanger life and limb on City Island, and we have been successful every time in preserving full fire protection in our community,” Councilman Jimmy Vacca said. “I will once again take this fight to the City Council and implore the FDNY to reconsider a cut that we all know is penny-wise and pound-foolish.”

Vacca acknowledged that there had been some talk about proposed cuts in the preliminary budget being a bargaining chip on the part of the Mayor Bloomberg as he negotiates a budget with the City Council, but said the people don’t have the luxury of ignoring the proposed cuts.

“In my role, I cannot sit back and say this is not for real,” Vacca said. “We are in a bad financial time, but I will tell you that the gravity of these cuts makes a lot of our constituents upset, and they are getting ready to fight this. I have the support of Speaker Christine Quinn and the chair of the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee Elizabeth Crowley.”

Ladder 53 performs all search and rescue operations for City Island, and works out of the same Schofield Street station as Engine 70. The next closest ladder company is Co-op City, with a response time that would be around nine minutes, or about twice the city average.

Since the majority of fire fatalities are at night, losing a ladder company on the isolated island community, which is only accessible from one three lane bridge, is particularly troubling.

The City Island community rallied hard against the possible closure of the Ladder 53 in the Fiscal 2010 and Fiscal 2011 budgets and were joined by Vacca, Congressman Joseph Crowley, Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Councilman Joel Rivera, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and union officials.

The City Island Civic Association will discuss the how best to fight this possible cut at its next meeting, said CICA vice president Fred Ramftl.

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