Town Hall planned on Ladder 53

Residents of City Island are not going to let their ladder company go without a major fight.

They are planning a town hall-style meeting at Lido Restaurant at 101 City Island Avenue on Tuesday, June 14 at 7 p.m. All City Islanders will express their concerns on the possible shuttering of Ladder Company 53 at 169 Schofield Street.

The meeting is being sponsored by Councilman Jimmy Vacca and the City Island Civic Association. The isolated island community has invited FDNY officials to defend the plan.

In the mayor’s preliminary budget for the upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1, 20 fire companies are slated for closure, including the island’s Ladder 53.

“We are having this town hall meeting and I am calling for a massive turnout,” Vacca said. “I am concerned about these fire cuts and I cannot predict the outcome with our budget situation. We have managed to save this fire company for three consecutive years, and I want City Islanders to know that if this cut is made, restoring funding will be a top priority.”

With the state of the budget this year, there will be more cuts than ever, Vacca said, leaving individuals members of the City Council with many more items that will need restoration of funding. He believes that the rationale that the FDNY is using to propose these cuts just does not make sense.

“I want everyone to know that all of City Island is mobilized in this effort,” Vacca said. “The FDNY is telling me clear as day that the response time will more than double because an off-island ladder company has to respond, and that since City Island does not have that many fires, this is acceptable. This kind of rationale makes no sense.”

According to the draft FDNY report on the proposed closures, called “Engine and Ladder Company Analysis” dated Wednesday, May 18, the response time will double from four minutes and 44 seconds to nine minutes and 49 seconds.

CICA president Bill Stanton said that the response time under ten minutes does not take into account the volume of traffic the island community gets in the summer. City Island has only one means of egress.

“By the FDNY’s own logic, I guess the fact that City Island doesn’t have a lot of crime means that we don’t need police coverage either,” Stanton said.

The last town hall meeting protesting the planned closure in December 2008 drew over 300 City Islanders who questioned three FDNY officials. CICA is hoping for an even bigger crowd this time around, said the organization’s vice-president Barbara Dolensek, adding that the reason Ladder 53 has so few runs is because it is not allowed to leave the island.

“Why send us extra back-up fire trucks on busy weekends if you think we can handle ourselves?” Dolensek asked bluntly of the FDNY. “Why take fire companies away from other neighborhoods to cover City Island?”

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