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Firehouse closures could be 'detrimental'

CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 5/27/2011, 12:34 p.m.

A preliminary list of 20 fire- houses slated for closure was released by the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) last week. The city claims that the closures are needed in order to save the city $55 million in a tight budget year-but crit- ics say the closures could put citizens in danger.

Broken down by borough, Brooklyn will see the most closures with eight companies shutting down-Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens will each lose four, and two will close on Staten Island.

"We have to see at the end what the financial reali- ties are. It would be great if we could have a firehouse or company on every corner, but that's not the real world," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg Wednesday at a press conference.

Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano has reportedly warned of an increase in response times if the firehouses are closed.

City Council members are already voicing their outrage over the closures that could put people in danger.

"For a man who made millions buying the right stocks, it's dumbfounding that Mayor Bloomberg is now choosing to sell the safety of New Yorkers," said Brooklyn City Councilman Jumaane Willams. "The closure of 20 engine and ladder companies, including eight in my borough of Brooklyn alone, will increase the risk to homes, businesses and lives citywide."

Williams added that his district, which includes Flat- bush, produces the highest number of calls to the fire department per year. While there are no closures in his direct area, Williams said that his community is in "peril," with the closures leaving his constituents at risk.

Paul Washington of the Vulcan Society, an organization of Black firefighters, said that the city as a whole will be affected, as firefighters do more than just respond to fire emergencies.

"Whenever we close firehouses it's always detrimental," he said. "It's going to take us longer to respond not only to fires, but to other emergencies like auto accidents and heart attacks. This is detrimental to the communities where it happens. There will be less manpower available for these emergencies and it's going have a bad effect city-wide."

On Thursday afternoon, Community Board 2 will hold a rally to save Engine 205 on Middagh Street in Brooklyn Heights, one of the companies that are slated to close. Elected officials, residents and firefighters are scheduled to attend.

In response to the proposed closures, Uniformed Fire- fighters Association President Steve Cassidy said that the closure of 20 firehouses could affect up to 60 neighborhoods across the city. The union also said that in the last 10 years, emergencies have gone up by 16 percent, and that last year was the busiest year in FDNY history.

"After nine FDNY cuts, including seven fire companies closed and engine company staffing reduced by Mike Bloomberg, the last seven years have been the busiest in FDNY history," Cassidy said. "The mayor has been saying that New Yorkers must do more with less and that is just what New York City fire- fighters have been doing all along."