Ladder 53 saved in the nick of time

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Councilman Jimmy Vacca, and members of the City Island Civic Association got together on Tuesday, June 30 to celebrate the successful fight to save Ladder Company 53. A cake commemorated that event. Photo by Patrick Rocchio

City Island celebrated its successful fight to save Ladder Company 53 with cake and fanfare. The celebration came just two days after a fire many said proved why it is so important for the remote City Island community to have its own engine and ladder company.

A jubilant party was held at the City Island Community Center on Tuesday, June 30 just days after the most recent city budget was approved. The budget saved Ladder Company 53. Members of the City Island community had been protesting the planned closure of the island’s only search and rescue apparatus since December.

Ladder Company 53, located at 167 to 169 Schofield Street had been subject to nighttime closure since January when it was ordered that the FDNY reduce operating costs by 7.5%, but the ladder company was scheduled to close permanently after June 30.

“The bottom line is if they had closed our fire company, response times would have gone up and it would endanger life and limb,” Vacca said. “Anywhere that I went in the Bronx, people realized the City Island Ladder Company is important because of City Island’s 33 restaurants. How could anyone conceive that this would not be a public safety issue?”

Council Speaker Christine Quinn and City Island leaders Bill Stanton and Barbara Dolensek were among the most adamant about keeping Ladder 53 open. Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. joined them as soon as he assumed his new position. He came out to the island for the victory celebration.

“The majority of elected officials in the Bronx don’t represent City Island, but we were speaking in one voice when we said keep the ladder company open,” Diaz said. “[The City Island community] has really shown the rest of the borough how to fight for city services.”

Ironically, Councilman Jimmy Vacca and Borough President Diaz pointed out that a fire which brought an off island fire company to City Island showed why it was important for Ladder 53 to remain open.

The two-alarm fire tore through 105 Schofield Street at 4:58 a.m. in the morning on Sunday, June 29. The responding off-island truck took at least 10 minutes to arrive, said Vacca.

Community Board 10 district manager Kenneth Kearns and representatives from two different fire fighters unions also joined the celebration on June 30.

“You pay taxes, and you deserve benefits; you were furious, and you had a right to be furious,” Steve Cassidy of the United Firefighters Association told the crowd of islanders. “When they wanted to minimize what you had, you stood up against an [outrageous situation].

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