FDNY recruits graduate as cuts loom

December 15, 2008 10:55:46 AM PST
Mayor Bloomberg welcomed a new class of firefighters Monday morning. But sharp cuts within the FDNY may make it the last new class headed to city firehouses for awhile. Bloomberg's demand for a $1.4 billion all-agency budget cut for next year will be a tough blow for New York City's fire and police departments. This new class of firefighters made it in just in time.

Two hundred and eighty-six probationary firefighters achieved their goal of being part of the FDNY. The graduation ceremony was held aboard the Intrepid.

"Your class is the most diverse in fire department history," Bloomberg said at the ceremony. "You hail from all parts of the city. You are male and female. White, black, Latino, Asian, and today, you are all firefighters who proudly reflect the city that you serve."

But they join a department facing some of the steepest budget cuts in years. Roughly $95 million must be sliced from the budget. Already, the FDNY has canceled next month's academy class of 110 new trainees, shut down a firehouse on Governor's Island and cut night staffing at four firehouses.

The NYPD is facing the same dire scenario. The next class of the police academy has been delayed, and the 1,000 officers training will have to wait. Layoffs may be next, since 94 percent of the police department's budget comes from personnel.

The Monday graduation ceremony was bittersweet for another reason - the sudden death of probationary firefighter Jamel Sears, who collapsed at the training academy on November 10.

"It is, of course, a tragedy that Jamel is not with us," FDNY Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said. "He would've been a great firefighter. His fellow probies have done their best to honor his memory and help you through this terrible time."

PBA president Pat Lynch says steady staffing at the NYPD is what has kept the crime level low throughout the city. He is worried that if cuts are made, that could all change. The last time the city laid off police officers was in 1975.

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STORY BY: Eyewitness News reporter Lisa Colagrossi

WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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