NY 1 - December 22, 2009by Josh Robin
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has chosen Fire Chief of Department Sal Cassano to be the next fire commissioner. Cassano, a Staten Island native who currently holds the highest-ranking uniformed New York City Fire Department position, was named to the post by the mayor at City Hall Monday. "He knows what it's like to go into a burning building, to ask somebody else to go in and put their lives on the line to save others," said the mayor.
Joining the FDNY in November 1969, Cassano, 64, worked his way up through the ranks and was named the chief of department in May 2006.
"In the process of this illustrious career Sal has received a remarkable five citations for bravery, all involved rescuing New Yorkers in burning buildings," said Bloomberg. "He also played, as many of you know, a crucial part in rebuilding the FDNY after 9/11 when the [Fire] Department lost 343 members possessing a deep pool of experience."
Cassano said his goal as fire commissioner will be to build upon the FDNY's successes from recent years.
"Luckily enough, having worked under Commissioner Scoppetta we've made an incredible amount of achievements," said Cassano. "And we're going to continue to make those achievements but that doesn't mean we're going to sit on our laurels. We're going to look at different ways to do things. We're going to put new technology in place. We have to look to the future and technology is one of the ways we're going to do it."
His biggest challenge now is taking over a department he will have to cut because of the city's budget crisis. He's thought to have the expertise to know where to trim, and the relationships with unions to soften the blow.
The head of the uniformed firefighters association feuded with outgoing Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta over safety and staffing. The union's statement welcoming his successor was quick but courteous, especially compared to the prickly send off it gave to Scoppetta.
"If you can settle your disputes privately, you'll be much more effective and you'll get much better results," advised Scoppetta.
Where controversy is unavoidable is the FDNY's failure so far to reflect the city it serves. The department is 90 percent white, although one-third of those waiting to join are minority. Budget cuts and lack of turnover have meant kept the FDNY from hiring.