Dutch Take Manhattan... Again

AM New York - September 14, 2009

by Lucy Blatter

As part of NY400 - a celebration of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's journey to the New World - 10 Dutch professionals and New York professionals are swapping jobs.

Last week, the Dutch workers - including a teacher, fireman, midwife, district attorney and farmer - joined their American counterparts. This week the New Yorkers are in Holland. We caught up with Dutch fireman Patrick Nugter and FDNY lieutenant John Scully. Scully and his brother, fire chief Stephen Scully had shown Nugter the ropes.

What have you been doing?

Patrick Nugter: We're just finishing a 24-hour shift at the station in Williamsburg. We're attending a 9/11 memorial and meeting with the Secretary of State of the Netherlands. I also spent a day at the fire academy on Randall's Island, and had training with Stephen [Scully, John's brother, who's in charge of fire department training there]. They showed me how they run things in America, and how they do their exercises.

JS: My brother set a building on fire at Randall's Island and Patrick came in. Patrick's very good at auto accidents and extractions, so he was swapping ideas. He's very sharp and he's into it.

Are there any major differences in firefighting here and in Holland?

PN: We both put extinguish fires. Here, they go in the ceiling and make a hole right away. We go in to extinguish a fire and then do the vent. It's a little different.

Also, we're a bit overregulated. There are too many rules in Holland. There are rules and guidelines in the U.S., but we have more.

Firefighters are known to be great cooks. Did you cook for Patrick?

JS: We made him a really good prime rib dinner and one day we made sausage and meatballs and pasta, which we call bats and balls.

He said he cooks a lot, too. I'm sure the guys there love it.

Why did you want to do the swap?

JS: I love the buildings and architecture and want to see how they fight their fires. They're dealing with much older buildings and they do it with less people.

PN: It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It's more than a job, being a firefighter, so you're keen on finding out how others do it. Also, New York has the biggest fire department in the world. It's sort of a firefighter's dream.