Bloomberg to Close 20 Fire Companies Due to Budget Cuts, Won't Disclose Which Ones

NY Daily News - May 17, 2011

by Jonathan Lemire

The FDNY refused to identify 20 fire companies slated for closure yesterday, sparking outrage from the City Council - and the threat of legal action.

Mayor Bloomberg plans to shutter 20 companies as part of the city's budget cuts, but the identities of the endangered units have been shrouded in mystery.

Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano admitted he had a tentative list of units on the chopping block but he would not disclose it to lawmakers.

"Negotiations are still ongoing and I'm not going to send it out until I have to," Cassano said at a contentious Council hearing.

His stonewalling sent lawmakers into an uproar.

"There is no lawful means for you to not provide the committee with that information," fumed Queens Councilman Dan Halloran, who ordered Council lawyers to file a subpoena to obtain the list.

Other lawmakers vowed to file a Freedom of Information request or refuse to vote on a budget - which must be submitted by June 30 - unless the Council is provided the list.

"The mayor won't tell us the companies but expects us to vote on the budget - what color is the sky in his world?" asked Queens Councilman Peter Vallone Jr.

The closures - and the resulting savings in overtime - would save the city approximately $55 million.

FDNY sources say some of the companies on the list are Engine 271 in Bushwick, Brooklyn, Ladder 53 on Staten Island, Engine 161 on Staten Island and Engine 4 near the South Street Seaport.

By law, the city has to notify the communities slated to lose a company 45 days in advance of its closure, though Mayor Bloomberg said no timetable for the announcement had been set.

In previous years, the City Council has saved the threatened FDNY companies by dipping into its discretionary fund - something it may not be able to afford to do this year.

Sources said plans were being discussed that would save some of the 20 units - giving lawmakers a political victory, but still giving Mayor Bloomberg some financial relief.

Cassano has repeatedly acknowledged that shuttering the fire companies would increase response times and further tax a department that is already 270 members below its budgeted headcount.