The annual chess match-bar fight over the number of New York City fire companies kicked off last week when Mayor Bloomberg announced his $68.7 billion executive budget for fiscal year 2012-13.
Bloomberg once again is calling for the elimination of 20 FDNY companies, a request he has had since 2009.
A spokeswoman for Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), who chairs the Fire and Criminal Justice Services Committee, said Tuesday that it still had not obtained a list of companies on the mayor’s list, and the Chronicle could not get through to Bloomberg’s press office prior to deadline to determine if any are in Queens.
Four Queens companies were on Bloomberg’s list last year.
“Any cuts to the FDNY threaten public safety, but closing 20 fire companies will have a devastating impact on fire and medical safety across New York City,” said Steve Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association. “Real public safety is not a luxury; it’s a necessity to attract people willing to raise their families here and businesses that provide jobs, economic development and tax revenue that sustain New York.”
Tom Butler, spokesman for the 8,000-member UFA, said no firefighters will be laid off — a federal lawsuit that has prevented the department from hiring for several years now has the FDNY about 600 short — and that eliminating a fire company does not necessarily mean closing a firehouse if a ladder company and an engine company are in the same location.
“The city doesn’t lose fire companies,” Butler said Tuesday. “Neighborhoods do.”
Butler said an engine company attacks the fire itself while ladder companies deal with search, rescue and recovery, along with ventilation. Engine companies also provide medical first response for medical calls.
“A company in Woodside would respond not only to Woodside, but maybe also Astoria, Jackson Heights, Long Island City, maybe parts of Brooklyn near the border and Maspeth,” he said. “If it closes, not only Woodside feels the impact.”
He said relocating a company of any kind even a few blocks can add critical minutes to response time.
“A fire in a small garbage container can go from an ash to enveloping a room at 2,000 degrees in a few minutes, and every few minutes can double in size,” Butler said. “Or how would you like to be an elderly person lying on the floor in pain for those extra minutes? Think of the difference those two to four minutes can make.”