Mother’s Day traffic snarl draws attention to Ladder 53

Let Mother’s Day be a warning, say City Island residents fearful of losing their FDNY Ladder Company to city budget cuts.

Traffic that day this year was backed up about 2 1/2 miles, leaving cars crawling, and any fire truck trying to get on to the island basically stuck while precious secconds count.

With the mayor’s budget proposal of FY 2013 yet again containing plans to shutter 20 FDNY companies, the City Island community is mobilizing to fight any cut to its Ladder Company 53, which was named for closure in a 2009 internal FDNY memorandum.

No specific fire companies have been specifically singled out this year for closure, but activists believe that since the island’s fire trucks cannot leave the area for calls due to unique geographic isolation, an “artificially low” number of calls make Ladder 53 a likely company to be cut.

Ladder 53, performs specific initial search and rescue operartions at fire scenes and has a ladder able to reach taller buildings on the island, while its sister Engine Co. 70 puts out fires.

The City Council restored funding to keep the fire company open in fiscal years 2010, 2011, and 2012, and Councilman Jimmy Vacca said the Mother’s Day traffic snarl on City Island was all the proof needed as to why the isolated island community needs to keep Ladder 53.

“When traffic is this dense, all roads on City Island are backed up. How could a Ladder Company coming from off of the island possibly navigate through these streets on such a busy day if there is a fire? Mother’s Day is only the beginning of days like this that City Island will face over the next four months and it is one of many reasons why Ladder 53 cannot close.”

The island has about 33 restaurants that receive many visitors, clogging the streets, especially on holidays, Vacca said.

City Islanders have noted that the rallies, letter writing campaigns, and even a “flashlight” march to save Ladder Company 53 over the past four years seem to have become something to be expected.

“It is an annual tradition every year now,” said Fred Ramftl, first vice-president at the City Island Civic Association. “With all of the money that the City collects from City Island in sales tax, among others, why don’t they reinvest that money in our community and leave Ladder Company 53 alone.”

Vacca is organizing a rally at St. Mary Star of the Sea school gym at 580 Minneford Ave. for 7:30 p.m. on Monday, June 4, said Barbara Dolensek, second vice-president of the City Island Civic Association.

“It is a budget game that they are playing, and they are using us to show that they are trying to save money,” Dolensek said of the city’s efforts. “We would be risking a lot if we ignored this, so we have to make a big fuss every year, so they don’t cut the money that funds the ladder company.”

There will also be a City Council hearing on the proposed fire company budget cuts at 250 Broadway on Friday, June 1, she said.

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