2 FDNY chiefs request demotion in protest against fire commissioner

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Tuesday, February 7, 2023
2 FDNY chiefs request demotion in fire commissioner protest
The FDNY's two top uniformed officials have resigned their positions following the demotions of three chiefs by FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh. CeFaan Kim has the story.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The FDNY's two top uniformed officials, Chief of Department John Hodgens and Chief of Fire Operations Joseph Esposito, have resigned their positions following the demotions of three chiefs by FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh last week in the latest shakeup within the department.

During the FDNY's promotional ceremony in East New York on Tuesday, as the top members were introduced on staged, Kavanagh was booed while fellow supporters cheered loudly for Hodgens.

Hodgens and Esposito requested to be demoted last week in protest.

The fire commissioner said she's unfazed by the uproar.

"Everything we do is for the love of the New York City fire department and for the city," Kavanagh said. "They are the chief of department and chief of operations right now. I always have a conversation with anyone on my team. We all have our right to our team and I'm gonna pick the team that is willing to accomplish the mission. It is totally acceptable to me and I said that to them last week that if you don't wanna do that with me, that they have a right to that."

The head of one of the FDNY unions said it isn't typical.

"Generally in the fire department you don't get demoted unless you have criminal charges or if there's department charges," said James McCarthy with the Uniformed Fire Officers Association. "I'm not aware of anybody else that didn't get charges being demoted."

However, Kavanagh said it's not atypical.

"I'm making changes as every commissioner has made before me, every single one," she said.

With the three assistant chiefs demoted, Kavanagh promoted three others Tuesday: Fire Assistant Chief Anthony Saccavino, Deputy Assistant Chief Brian Cordasco, and Deputy Assistant Chief Thomas Reilly.

According to a statement released by the mayor's spokesperson, the mayor fully supports Kavanagh's decision:

"Commissioner Kavanagh has my full support. She is promoting a culture of true leadership, accountability, and performance within the FDNY. As Commissioner Kavanagh made clear, she and her senior team work for the rank and file and the people of this city. Those who do not agree with that view have chosen to leave the FDNY. Regardless, New Yorkers can rest assured that the FDNY is as prepared as ever to keep them safe and respond to any and all emergencies."

The shakeup comes at a time when the department is facing staffing struggles.

"It creates about a 150 years of firefighting experience and a skill set that you can't replace in a short manner of time, so it impacts the safety of the people of the city as well as the people in the fire department," McCarthy said.

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