NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- A confrontation took place on Staten Island between police and anti-vaccine protesters after mandate enforcement began for city workers on Monday.
Anti-mandate protestors on Staten Island called it their last stand Monday night.
Bar owner Danni Presti, who defied COVID restrictions during the shutdown, was the first to get hauled off by the NYPD.
"The last two weeks I was never more proud to see the garbage sitting in front of my house and I would've let it sit there forever if that's what it takes," Presti said.
Traffic snarled on Richmond Avenue and erupted in support.
Garbage is piling up in spots around New York City with 17% of sanitation workers still refusing to get vaccinated as mandates went into effect on Monday.
It includes all New York City municipal workers -- including the NYPD and FDNY -- who are now required to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Despite Monday night's protests, Mayor Bill de Blasio says this is progress.
He said 91% of the city's workforce has received at least one shot, including 22,472 new vaccinations since the mandate was announced -- and 3,564 since Friday's 5 p.m. deadline.
Still, roughly 6% of the total workforce, about 9,000 municipal workers, are now on unpaid leave, Press Secretary Daniele Filson said, having failed to be vaccinated by the deadline.
"City workers are doing the right thing," de Blasio said. "I want to thank everyone who got vaccinated. I know there were some questions and concerns. Thank you for getting vaccinated, for doing the right thing, for moving us forward."
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said 18 fire companies are out of service, but no firehouses are closed. He could not say how many fire companies are currently understaffed, because it "changes by the minute."
The FDNY says 2,300 firefighters called out sick Monday, and both Nigro and de Blasio called on firefighters to stop misusing sick leave and report to work.
Nigro said this is only happening within the firefighter ranks, not the fire officers or EMS workers.
"Understaffing could end immediately if members stopped going sick when they weren't sick," he said. "We hope that ends very soon and we can go back to staffing our units as they should be."
He accused the Uniformed Firefighters Association of staging a sickout.
"Our medical leave spiked up, and we know that's related to protest against the mandate," Nigro said. "It's obvious. Generally, 200 people come into our medical office every day. In this past week, it's been 700 a day. Most, but the majority of them are unvaccinated. This is completely unacceptable."
In Brooklyn, union delegates visited firehouses where units were taken out of service to answer questions and to monitor staffing levels. By some accounts, the conversations were emotional in a workforce with mixed feelings about the mandates.
Rank and file union leaders remain defiant.
"No one on this board would ever condone anyone using our medical leave fraudulently," Uniformed Firefighters Association President Andrew Ansbro said. "We agree with the commissioner, but we don't think it's going on."
As of Sunday night, vaccination rates stood at 84% for the NYPD, 82% for the Department of Sanitation, and 80% for the FDNY.
Among those in the fire department, the breakdown of those vaccinated includes 75% of firefighters, 87% of EMTs and medics, and 90% of civilians.
The city is allowing large numbers of unvaccinated employees to continue working as it considers applications for exemptions.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said just 74 NYPD members are on unpaid leave because of the vaccine mandate, while 6,500 officers have applied for exemptions and can stay on the job as long as they continue weekly testing.
The applications for exceptions will be reviewed over the next couple weeks.
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