NYC Fire Dept announces cutbacks

December 4, 2008 4:26:39 PM PST
Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta announces plans Thursday to cut staffing at four firehouses at night, part of a sweeping Bloomberg administration order to save money in the economic slowdown. The firehouse plan emerged from Mayor Bloomberg's mandate to all city agencies in September to cut spending by 2.5 percent this fiscal year, which ends next June, and 5 percent the following year.

"It's no secret we're facing very hard economic times," Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said at a news conference. The FDNY is trying to trim $60 million from its budget as the city faces a multibillion dollar shortfall in the coming years.

As part of the FDNY cuts, the department plans to eliminate nighttime engine companies in four firehouses that also have ladder companies. The move allows those firehouses to stay open, but with fewer firefighters at night.

The cuts will affect four of the city's 350 firehouses.

Those firehouses include:

  • Engine Co. 4
    South Street, Manhattan
  • Engine Co. 161
    McClean Avenue, SI
  • Engine Co. 271
    Himrod Street, Brooklyn
  • Ladder 53
    Schofield Street, The Bronx

    **Eyewitness News is told all four, ladder companies will continue to staff the firehouse through overnight hours.

    The companies were chosen after fire officials studied proximity to other fire companies, street locations and geographic obstacles, as well as the overall number of responses to fires and other emergencies at night.

    Fire officials said communities should not fear they will be in danger because of the closures and invited questions from residents in affected areas. Officials said trucks from other companies could still get to emergencies in time because overnight traffic is light.

    "Our goal, first and foremost, is to minimize any impact these reductions could have on our ability to continue protecting and serving all New Yorkers," Scoppetta said.

    Uniformed Firefighters Association president Steve Cassidy said closing companies compromises public safety and noted that more fatalities happen at night than at any other time.

    "In this post 9-11 world the FDNY's expanded responsibilities to protect New Yorkers can not be accomplished by service reductions," Cassidy said.

    **In addition, a fire unit on Governor's Island will be disbanded. No companies that serve residents will be shuttered, Scoppetta said.

    Under the new policy, which goes into effect Jan. 17, the companies affected will be closed at 6 p.m. and reopen the next morning at 9 a.m. The move affects about 18 firefighters and five officers who will be shifted to work in other areas.

    In addition to the closures, which are expected to save about $8.9 million, the FDNY is reducing the length of probationary firefighters' training school from 23 weeks to 18 weeks. That measure should save $6 million.

    Also, the department is hiring only 100 probationary firefighters for the January class instead of 300 - the lowest number since before the Sept. 11 attacks, officials said.

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    EYEWITNESS NEWS REPORTER: N.J. Burkett WEB PRODUCED BY: Lakisha Bostick, Bob Monek and Mark Crudele

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