Press Releases

For Immediate Release: June 14, 2010

Columbia University Study Shows Closing Firehouses Makes No Economic Sense to NYC

NYC Firefighters Saved Over 12,000 Lives in 1st Quarter of 2010

Throughout 2009 a team of Columbia University researchers began collaboration with the leadership of the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) on a study to produce and implement a statistical method to conservatively estimate of how much the FDNY saves homeowners, businesses and residents each year.   The results of the Capstone Project: FDNY Property Saved Indicator were posted on the Columbia University School of International Public Affairs web site April 28, 2010 HERE.

According to the research team, conservatively New York's Bravest saved $3.1 billion in property. The study focused only on structural damage - leaving out the economic impact of lost possessions, the costs of relocating burned-out businesses or the impact of deaths on families.

Estimating conservatively, the Columbia study also assumed property costs of only $100 per square-foot - a mere fraction of true real estate values across the five boroughs."The average price of building property in Manhattan in January 2009 was $1,190/sq-ft; Bronx was $198/sq-ft, and Brooklyn for example was $285/sq-ft," (pg 12) according to the study.

The Columbia Capstone Project proves that the FDNY is one of the best investments New Yorkers can make. The study proved mathematically that the Fire Department and its firefighters far exceed their cost to taxpayers. FDNY units are always the first to respond to fires or medical emergencies, building collapses, gas leaks or terrorist attacks. New York City Firefighters save homes, businesses and lives.

The researchers determined that to prevent $3.1 billion in damage annually, the city spent just $1.5 billion on the department's operating budget. In other words, New Yorkers get a more than 2-to-1 return on their investment in the FDNY. The $3.1 billion breaks down to about $15.6 million in property saved for each of the city's 198 engine companies.

Many things that New York City Firefighters do, you can also not put a price on.  In the first quarter of 2010, the FDNY rescued 12,092 New Yorkers. What price can be put on those more than 12,000 lives? The FDNY is also the only city service trained to respond to time-critical medical emergencies - and a cardiac-arrest victim has just five minutes before suffering irreversible brain damage or death. 

According to the Police Commissioner Kelly, New York has been the target of terrorist plots 11 times since the World Trade Center attacks on 9-11-01 and our city remains the world's top terrorist target. The post 9-11 reality demands that the city be prepared to respond to the worst. Yet New York is headed toward closing 20 fire companies -- clearly compromising safety and security.

"Over the last five years the FDNY has responded to more emergencies than at any time in the 145 year history of the FDNY.  This shows that New York City should be adding and not subtracting from its community fire companies’ ability to respond to emergencies," said Steve Cassidy, President of the Uniformed Firefighters Association. "If it is your family is trapped inside a burning building or having a stroke or heart attack, you don't want an FDNY company to have to drive past a closed firehouse to get to you."

Mr. Cassidy continued, "Now that Columbia University has said the FDNY pays back dividends to the taxpayers in property savings far exceeding its cost to taxpayers by over $1 billion annually, it clearly makes no economic sense for the mayor to be closing firehouses."

The research team was headed by Professor Joanne Baney, MBA; with Clarisse Bleicher, Tashi Choden, Iva Kleinova, Lesli Proffitt Nordstrom and Babor Veress.