Mayor de Blasio didn’t go far in his search to find a new Fire Department commissioner, choosing Daniel Nigro, a 32-year FDNY veteran from Whitestone who can’t wait to get on the job.
Nigro, 65, who retired from New York’s Bravest in 2002 as chief of department, the highest ranking uniformed fire official in the city, is a survivor of the 9/11 terrorist attack at the World Trade Center.
“Every day, New York City’s bravest rush toward danger to protect our children, parents and neighbors, and the FDNY’s heroic men and women deserve a leader who shares their unwavering commitment to this noble profession,” said the mayor in announcing his selection last week at the FDNY’s Fire Academy at Randall’s Island.
“In the aftermath of 9/11, Daniel led the FDNY through some of its darkest days with an unrelenting determination to rescue and protect our fellow New Yorkers ... and I know Daniel has what it takes to lead the FDNY forward,” he added.
Nigro responded that the mayor has outlined a strong vision for the FDNY, “one that provides for all our residents equally and reflects our city’s diverse communities, and I look forward to making this vision a reality.”
Ensuring safety, increasing diversity and maintaining swift response times are the mayor’s stated goals for the department, and in an interview with the Chronicle on Monday, Nigro reiterated their importance.
“We must serve the people, respond quickly and ensure fairness to everyone,” he said. “We will have an open-door policy and we have already started to move forward to recruit more minorities.”
The new commissioner has even promised to look at ways of adding more women to the FDNY. He noted that carrying heavy loads has been an obstacle to females in the past, “but we have to look at how they do it in the military and in other cities,” Nigro said. “We have to be open to ideas.”
Speaking from his home in Whitestone, where he has lived with his wife, Lynn, for more than 40 years, the new commissioner said he can’t wait to start on his new job: “When the opportunity arose, who could say no to the Fire Department?”
Nigro said he couldn’t do it without the support of his wife, who knows he won’t be around as much now that he’s to head the FDNY. “My wife realizes it’s my passion and she is supportive,” he added.
A native of Bayside, Nigro attended Bayside High School and Baruch College. He and his wife have two daughters, three grandchildren and another on the way. They often babysit.
Prior to 9/11, Nigro served as chief of operations for two years. He is credited with successfully merging the city’s Emergency Medical Services into the FDNY in 1996.
On 9/11, Nigro was trapped with his nephew, also a firefighter, when the first tower went down. His wife reported shortly afterward that they were stuck in a doorway and Nigro kissed his nephew good-bye, because he thought they would die.
But the two were eventually able to escape and continued their efforts to save lives.
He became chief of department six days later, succeeding his close friend Peter Ganci, who died at the WTC. Nigro retired a year later following a dispute over tenure.
After retiring, he became a consultant and served on several nonprofit boards.