On the same day the city begins work on a three-year-long bridge replacement project that will narrow a main City Island access road from four lanes to two, Council Member James Vacca and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. joined City Island residents and fire union reps to again call on the Mayor to reverse his decision to close the Island’s only search-and-rescue truck.
Ladder 53, which is currently subject to nighttime closure, is scheduled to shut permanently on July 1 as part of the latest round of Administration-ordered budget cuts. The next-nearest ladder company, located four miles away in Co-op City, uses the road currently under construction ― the Hutchinson River Parkway extension road ― to access City Island. The roadwork is necessary to replace an aging bridge that crosses a stretch of Amtrak rails. Even before the roadwork was announced, FDNY estimated that closing Ladder 53 would increase the ladder response time on City Island to a city’s-worst 10 minutes.
“Even before we learned of this project, we knew that closing Ladder 53 was a dangerous idea. But to move ahead with this closure now, despite knowing that both access roads to City Island will be backed up for miles, would be utter negligence,” said Vacca, who chairs the City Council’s Fire and Criminal Justice Services Committee. “My colleagues in the Council are with me in this fight, and I am proud to say that City Island has a very important ally in our new Borough President, Ruben Diaz, Jr. Now it all comes down to the Mayor, whom I am urging to take a fresh look at this cut.”
“The traffic on this island is already a nightmare, and these lane closures will only make a bad situation worse,” said Diaz. “Shutting down Ladder 53, especially under these conditions, is nothing less than tempting fate. City Island is already isolated from the rest of The Bronx, and even in the best conditions the FDNY estimates that fire response times would climb to an unacceptable 10 minutes. With more construction, and therefore more traffic, it is easy to imagine those times rising even higher. Mayor Bloomberg must rethink this decision. The dollars saved are not worth the potential loss of life and destruction of property the closure of Ladder 53 could mean.”
Vacca, Diaz, and City Islanders have consistently cited access issues as their primary reason for protesting the closure of Ladder 53. Among the many other obstacles is the city’s busiest drawbridge, Pelham Bridge, which opens an average of seven times a day. Also, beginning next year, the city plans to replace City Island Bridge, the community’s single access point, in another multi-year project.