For Release March 26, 2015
Queens Elected Officials & NY City Firefighters Ask:
The massive gas explosion and 7-alarm fire in the East Village is just another example of the importance of NY City firefighters in protecting lives of Queens residents. Queens saw an 8% increase in structural fires last year. At a recent Woodhaven fire, 140 FDNY firefighters responded and two were injured as a row of eight homes were significantly damaged.
Over the last week Queens elected officials have stepped forward in a campaign to show they stand in support of New York’s bravest that protect their constituents and communities they serve.
There are now over 1,400 newly hired FDNY firefighters who lack any real disability protections. Should they be burned, seriously injured or paralyzed on the job, the disability protection for a Probationary (Rookie) Firefighter equals only about $10,000 per year or $27 per day. The UFA and firefighters say corrective legislation is urgently needed to address this crisis which stems from a June 2009 veto of New York City Firefighter and Police Tier II disability protections.
Carlos Azevedo, East Elmhurst (Engine 316) said, “The two tier system doesn’t work. It doesn’t make sense to be across the table from another firefighter, knowing his family will be taken care of if something happens, and knowing that your family is not going to get the same protection if something happens… It just doesn’t add up for the job that we do. $27 a day, you can’t do anything. I don’t think anyone can live on $27 a day. Would you put your life on the line for $27 a day?”
Frederick Whynn, Hollis (Engine 301) said, “I give my 100%, and I figure the least I can ask is should I be gravely injured, that I be protected with real benefits.”
UFA President Steve Cassidy said, “Would you risk your life and health for only $27 a day? It’s horrific that the top leadership in City Hall is saying that $10,000 a year is all the disability protection that a New York City Firefighter - the best trained firefighter in the world – will receive if permanently disabled on the job. Do they believe disabled firefighters can survive, pay their rent, feed their family and afford to send their children to college on this meager sum? Just last week the mayor demanded a minimum hourly wage of $13/hour in the City of New York, but yet a new, young firefighter protecting the public is only worth a fraction of that if he or she is permanently disabled?”
Numerous Queens County council members support legislation which would provide equal disability protections for all FDNY firefighters should they be seriously injured in the line of duty.
Councilman Daneek Miller (District 27), and Chair of the City Council Committee on Civil Service and Labor said, “I am particularly honored to stand with members of the Vulcan Society and Hispanic Society who have worked tirelessly to bring diversity to the Fire Department for many years. Now that day has come and the rules of engagement are different. That is not fair, it is not right, now is the time for us to fix this injustice. I ask my colleagues to stand with me, not just in the council but in the state and fix this injustice… Let’s make this happen for the men and women who make it happen for us every day.”
Council Member Elizabeth Crowley (District 30), and Chair of the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice said, "This administration says it cares about fairness, but what is fair about $27 dollars a day for New York's Bravest if they get hurt while risking their lives? Every firefighter is taking the same risk, and every firefighter deserves the assurance that their families will be provided for should anything happen on the job. We cannot allow the City to cut corners when it comes to fundamental public safety."
Councilman Paul Vallone (District 19) questioned the hundreds of firefighters gathered: “Is it harder today than it was in 2008 to be a firefighter? When you leave your family today, is it harder today to walk out that door than it was in 2008?” The crowd of over 350 firefighters shouted, “NO” to both questions. “We want parity for all that you do, for everyday when you step into harm’s way and risk your lives,” Councilman Vallone concluded.
Councilman Mark Weprin (District 23) held up a #standwithbravest sign as he spoke: “I stand with the men and women of the Fire Department because I know that they would go in and protect my family and every family is this city… they are there to protect us and they deserve the respect to be treated with parity and to get the payments so they can live their lives god-forbid they get hurt in the line of duty.”
Councilman Rory Lancman (District 24) posed the questions, “Could you imagine standing here in the shadow of the old World Trade Center almost 10, 15 years ago talking about cutting firefighters disability benefits, about having two tiers for disability benefits? It would be unthinkable and it is really unconscionable... We are here to say more than just thank you, we are here to put our money where our mouth is, to get you the disability benefits, to get you the security and peace of mind that you and your families deserve.”
Councilman Costa Constantinides (District 22) said, “I wanted to make sure I was here today to stand with our bravest… When there is an emergency in our city, when everyone else is running away, you are running towards it… As an elected official I’ve been proud to stand with you and proud to be a part of this resolution and say we are going to get this fixed, it’s time for Albany to get this done.”
NY City Public Advocate Letitia James said, “All that we are asking is that there be parity in the system, and that we respect all firefighters, all police officers, and treat them the same under the law. I want equality, I want parity, I want all of their pensions to be treated equally… God forbid should anything happen to them, I do not want any of these first responders to have to live on $27/Day. It is unconscionable; it is unacceptable that our government would not put on their desk immediately a pension bill that would give them parity now and forever.”
Vincent Alvarez, President of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO said, "Our hard-working first responders put their lives on the line each and every day helping to keep us safe. The fact that the City would willingly strip our firefighters of necessary disability protections, knowing the dangers they face, is a slap in the face to these workers and their families. We cannot and will not sit idly by while workers' commitments to protecting our safety are trivialized.”
The UFA also introduced two new videos which chronicle the serious and significant concerns: “$27/Day” and “Recruiting Lies”containing interviews with impacted firefighters addressing their fears about lacking real disability protections. Firefighters are encouraging fellow New Yorkers to stand with New York’s Bravest by signing an online petition asking elected officials to restore real disability protections for the city’s newest firefighters. .
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