Chief Leader - October 29, 2019by RICHARD STEIER
James J. Boyle, a two-time Uniformed Firefighters Association President once described as “the most beloved man within the New York Fire Department Family,” died Oct. 27 after a long battle with cancer. He was 81 years old.
A colorful, sometimes-unconventional labor leader known for his sunny personality, he joined the Fire Department in 1962 and spent most of his career assigned to Engine Co. 217 in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant section.
Undone by Contract Battles
He was elected president of the UFA in 1983 but defeated in his bid for re-election after union delegates rejected a complex contract deal he negotiated. In 1990, he regained office, but this time had his tenure upended by opposition on his board—which had been driven by infighting for much of the previous decade—to another tentative contract deal, forcing it into arbitration, where the terms were less-favorable than those that had been rejected.
He then took a job in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, where he was working when planes hijacked by terrorists slammed into the World Trade Center on 9/11. Mr. Boyle, whose son Michael was among the firefighters who responded, walked across the Brooklyn Bridge that morning to try to assist in rescue operations, eight years after he retired from the FDNY. He spent much of the day there, trying to find his son, who was among the 340 firefighters who perished in the rescue attempts.
He subsequently served eight years as the Associate Director of the Fire Service Institute at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where he established a fire-cadet program.
‘Most-Honest, Caring Man’
William McKechnie, whose tenure as president of the old Transit Police Benevolent Association brought him into contact with Mr. Boyle at the UFA and later worked with him in the Brooklyn DA’s Office, said of his old friend, “A giant of a union leader has passed. Jimmy was an unpretentious guy not impressed in the least by titles…he was truly the most honest, caring man I have ever met.”
Mr. Boyle is survived by his wife, Barbara, children James Jr., Peter, Mary and Jeanne, and seven grandchildren on whom he doted.
A wake will be held Nov. 4 at the Dalton Funeral Home, from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. at 412 Willis Ave. in Williston Park. Funeral services will be held Nov. 5 at 11 a.m. at St. Brigid Catholic Church, 85 Post Ave., in Westbury.