Vacca, Borough President Diaz, Electeds, City Islanders Tell No-Show FDNY: Closing Ladder Co. 53 Will Put Lives in Danger
Hundreds of Town Hall attendees videotape pleas to FDNY and City Hall
New York City Council Member James Vacca, the City Island Civic Association, and the City Island Chamber of Commerce tonight hosted a Town Hall meeting to give City Island residents and merchants a chance to oppose the proposed closure of the Island’s only ladder company. Because the FDNY declined an invitation to attend the Town Hall, Islanders were forced to address their concerns to a video camera set up behind an empty chair. The public statements will be sent to FDNY headquarters as well as City Hall later this week.
“The fact that Ladder 53 is on the chopping block again – despite the FDNY’s own admission that closing this company would double response times on City Island and endanger life and limb – simply defies logic,” Council Member Vacca said “On three separate occasions, the City Council has restored funding to keep all engine and ladder companies open citywide. We called a Town Hall meeting tonight to send a message that we want this budget cut off the table again, and we never want to see it rear its ugly head again.”
Elected officials including Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., and City Council Majority Leader Joel Rivera, showed their support at the Town Hall, held at Lido Restaurant. Ladder 53 is one of 20 fire companies slated to close in the FDNY’s proposed FY12 budget plan. If Ladder 53 were to close, it would take the next-nearest ladder company over 10 minutes to respond to an emergency, if neither of the two drawbridges leading onto the Island were raised. That would give City Island the longest first-alarm response time citywide, creating a serious risk for a community lined with wood-frame homes, marinas, boatyards, and restaurants.
“By any measure, the cuts to Ladder 53 represent a total surrender of government’s first responsibility: protecting its people,” Public Advocate de Blasio said. “There can be no justification for making residents wait five additional minutes to get help if there’s a fire or medical emergency. Closing Ladder 53 is insanity, and the residents and businesses of City Island won’t stand for it. We will fight these fire company cuts by any means necessary.”
“We cannot balance the budget by sacrificing our safety,” Borough President Diaz said. “We know that City Island is remote, and that traffic can be tremendous on the weekends. Given that, we cannot afford to close Ladder 53. The safety of City Island depends on it.”
“In a fire or emergency, a few minutes can mean the difference between a life saved or a life lost,” Congressman Joe Crowley said. “Closing a firehouse jeopardizes the safety of any community, but is especially dangerous for a community like City Island. Without Ladder Company 53, we will be forced to rely on fire trucks that have to travel long distances and fight dense traffic to respond to City Island residents in need of help. And that is just plain unacceptable.”
Firehouse closures have become a recurring threat in the annual budget process. In 2009, between January and June, the FDNY closed four fire companies, including Ladder 53, during the nighttime tour. Those companies and an additional 12 were slated to close permanently on July 1, 2009, until the City Council restored funding in a last-minute deal to keep all firehouses open. In 2010, the FDNY proposed closing 20 fire companies to meet cost-cutting targets; again, the Council came to the rescue by restoring funding in the final budget agreement.