City Saves Two Firehouses

WCBS 880 - May 20, 2003

Now The Push Is On To Save The Other Six

NEW YORK (AP) The city has cut back the number of firehouses slated to be closed this week because of the huge budget gap, from eight to six, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Monday.

"I am pleased to announce that because of the assistance we have gotten today from Albany, and in the interests of exercising the maximum caution allowable given our still precarious fiscal situation, we now believe it is possible to reduce the number of fire companies that are slated for closing," Bloomberg said in a statement.

State legislators voted Monday to override Gov. George Pataki's veto of a city aid bill, which will raise city sales and income taxes.

The extra money allows the city to give Engine Co. 293, in Woodhaven, Queens, and Squad 252, in Bushwick, Brooklyn, a reprieve and maintain acceptable response times and a high standard of hazardous-materials training, Bloomberg said.

"The response times in the area served by Engine 293 would have risen above the citywide average, something we would like to avoid," Bloomberg said. "By keeping Squad 252 in Brooklyn, we are able to maintain the borough's hazmat capabilities."

The Uniformed Firefighters Association, the biggest firefighter union, said it was pleased with Bloomberg's decision but would continue fighting to keep the remaining six firehouses open.

"This is a small step in the right direction," said union spokesman Tom Butler.

Bloomberg, seeking to close a $3.8 billion budget deficit, had originally slated the eight firehouses to be closed by Friday. The remaining six units are still scheduled to close that day, and their firefighters will be transferred to some of the other more than 470 firehouses in the city.

A Brooklyn judge was scheduled Tuesday to hear a lawsuit brought by elected officials and civic groups attempting to block the closure of the firehouses.

Butler said his union had collected 100,000 signatures for a petition demanding the mayor reverse his decision to close any firehouses. He said the union would present the petition to Bloomberg later this week.