A Brooklyn-Queens border fire company will be among 16 spared from the mayor’s axe when the City Council votes this week to restore Fire Department funding eliminated in an earlier budget draft.
The council struck a deal with Mayor Mike Bloomberg on Monday night to restore funding for critical services with additional revenue generated by a proposed half-percent sales tax hike and a new clothing tax for items of more than $110.
Engine Company 271 in Bushwick, which shares its firehouse with another Ladder company, was slated to close in July after an initial budget announcement by Bloomberg placed it on the chopping block. The company was deactivated for overnight duty as a cost-saving measure in January.
“During this brutal economic time, it has been up to the people and their elected representatives to fight for what matters. When the city was on the brink of closing 16 firehouses, we organized, we rallied and we made our voices loud and clear that we would not support a plan that would jeopardize our community’s safety,” Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said.
Civic groups and firefighter advocates had warned of dire consequences earlier this year if the firehouse were to close.
The Uniformed Firefighters Association came out against the plan in March, citing two fires to illustrate the importance of Engine 271 to the surrounding community.
On March 18 a three-alarm fire on Wyckoff Avenue destroyed three homes and several neighborhood stores, causing severe damage and displacing several families and shopkeepers. Engine 271, based only blocks away, would have been the first unit on the scene, they said. But other units were forced to respond because 271 was closed overnight, costing precious minutes in fighting the blaze.
In contrast, the Brooklyn firefighters responded to an early morning fire in Bushwick the following week in which three residents were trapped on the third floor of a multi-family building. Engine 271 was put on duty that night and was the first to the scene, according to the firefighters association. All of the residents were safely evacuated from the building.
“Fires can reach 2,000 degrees in less than three minutes, so every second counts when firefighters are trying to protect lives and property” Steve Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, said in a prepared statement. “On the night when the mayor and commissioner closed E271 three buildings and multiple stores were lost. On the night that E271 was kept open by the FDNY, firefighters were able to safely evacuate residents and then rescue three victims cornered by heavy heat, high smoke and trapped behind child window bars.”
Monday’s budget deal will also minimize proposed funding cuts to the city’s libraries and among child-care workers.