June 6, 2011
By Kismet Barksdale & Stephanie West
Over 15,000 New Yorkers gathered Friday June 3rd at New York City Hall to protest Mike Bloomberg’s planned closing of 20 fire companies. Joining these thousands of demonstrators, hundreds of firefighters, City Council members and representatives of impacted communities began marching across the Brooklyn Bridge around 10:30 a.m. chanting “stop the closings.”
Although Mayor Michael Bloomberg has stated that $ 55 million in cuts will not jeopardize public safety, Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano has testified that closures would “negatively affect response times to fires and life threatening medical emergencies” in every community in the city.
Uniformed Firefighter’s Association President Steve Cassidy said to the large crowd of demonstrators that the increase response times will put many at risk. “The Bloomberg administration basically says that the time a 911 caller spends with a 911 operator doesn’t count. It’s outrageous,” said Cassidy. “If your house is on fire, if you’re having a heart attack, that minute or minute and a half actually does count.”
Denis Hughes, President of the New York State AFL-CIO stated that “The proposed closing of firehouses is short sighted, ill conceived political rhetoric at its worst. How can we consider ourselves a progressive, enlightened society when we find ourselves here today having to defend the basic necessity of providing health and safety protections for all New Yorkers? Closing firehouses will not only threaten the public safety of all New Yorkers today, but will have serious repercussions for years to come.”
Captain Alexander Hagan, Uniformed Fire Officer Association President (UFOA) said that “Mayor Bloomberg wants to give New York City a smaller, cheaper, slower Fire Department. He wants to close 20 fire companies and cut another 500 firefighters. None of the companies on the chopping block are close to where he and his wealthy friends live. But if you live in the Outer Boroughs simply stated he doesn’t care if you and your loved ones live
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has called the proposed cuts an outrage.
Firefighters are the first responders in any non criminal emergencies in our city, including medical emergencies, fires, and building collapses. Even closing one neighborhood firehouse endangers communities. Closing 20 fire companies would greatly downgrade the FDNY emergency response grid. In today’s world of terrorism, an effective fire department is essential.