MTA quickly flips stance on flag lowering after union flap

FDNY Battalion chief Michael Fahy, a 17-year veteran, was killed in Tuesday’s house explosion.
Photo courtesy of FDNY

Mayor de Blasio ordered all flags be lowered to half-staff across the city Tuesday in memory of FDNY captain Michael Fahy.

But the flags flying at the city’s numerous state-run MTA facilities were not lowered until Wednesday afternoon following outcries by MTA employees.

Members of the Transportation Workers Union Local 100 lowered the flag at the Kingsbridge MTA Depot located on 10th Avenue in Manhattan Wednesday morning.

That action garnered a warning from MTA officials that employees would be suspended for doing so.

When the workers were told only the governor could order such an action, they threatened a protest, according to Local 100 spokesman Pete Donohue.

Union employees at other MTA facilities showed solidarity by immediately lowering their flags as well, Donohue added.

But MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz claimed afterwards that the whole issue was simply a misunderstanding, and said all MTA flags were being lowered.

“There was a miscommunication at the bus depot level,” Ortiz said in a written statement. “In honor of the fallen FDNY Battalion Chief, Michael Fahy, who was killed yesterday in the line of duty, flags at all MTA facilities are being flown at half-staff until further notice.”

The reversal didn’t stop union representatives from continuing to lambast the MTA’s actions.

“This incident was the result of the disrespectful decisions of brainless bureaucrats at NYC Transit, but when workers stand shoulder to shoulder we win,” said TWU Local 100 president John Samuelsen.

On Wednesday, de Blasio told WNYC host Brian Lehrer Fahy was a talented man who had practiced law but left the field to work as a firefighter.

The mayor said he met with Fahy’s family after the tragedy.

“You can imagine how painful it is to see what people go through, the pain they go through when they find out they’ve lost their loved one, their child, their husband,” the mayor said. “But it is also a reminder that there are good men and women, every day, who put their lives on the line for the people of New York City. And I can say he died doing what he loved doing, and following a family tradition – a very noble tradition.”

Bronx officials also offered condolences, including Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and Councilman Andrew Cohen. They released a joint statement Tuesday afternoon:

“We extend our deepest condolences to the family of FDNY 19th Battalion Chief Michael Fahy who this morning lost his life heroically serving our district,” the statement read.

“Fahy bravely and selflessly entered this home despite the danger, and his ultimate sacrifice, his character, and his commitment to this City will be remembered by all of us. He embodies the meaning of ‘The Bravest.’ “

“We also hope for a quick recovery for the firefighters, police officers and civilians who were injured during this devastating explosion that rocked our quiet neighborhood.”

Reach Reporter Arthur Cusano at (718) 260-4591. E-mail him at acusano@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @arthurcusano

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