Reprieve of South Beach's Engine 161 is Celebrated

SI Advance - July 01, 2010

by Jillian Taratunio

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Staten Islanders and their elected officials are celebrating the salvation of Engine Co. 161 and 19 other FDNY companies that had been targeted for closure - although the reprieve is no guarantee they won't be on the chopping block next fiscal year.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council agreed on a $63.1 billion budget that devotes $37 million to keeping the fire companies in action and preserving the jobs of 400 firefighters.

"Twelve thousand firefighters protect 9 million New York City citizens when there's an automobile accident, a heart attack, a fire, or a missing child," said Borough President James Molinaro.

"We can't take the loss of the Police Department or the Fire Department. This is about public safety - what the Fire Department does for the City of New York."

Engine 161, in South Beach, also was on the chopping block last year, and also was spared from closure at the last minute.

City Councilman James Oddo (R-Mid-Island/Brooklyn) referred to last year's fight for engine companies as a "grassroots movement" but said this "budget negotiation was a different animal from last year."

He thanked Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) for putting the restoration at the top of the agenda.

"We're here so that the wonderful people in the 20 engine companies can protect these communities, and we're here because [Ms.] Quinn said, 'You're not closing these engine companies on my watch,'" said Oddo.

City Councilwoman Debi Rose (D-North Shore) said the saving of the fire companies comes as a huge relief to New Yorkers.

"We have to make sure the citizens have the safety net that the firehouses provide. The loss wouldn't be recoupable," said Ms. Rose.

Joe and RoseAnn McAllister, president and vice president of the South Beach Civic Association, have rallied against the closure of Engine 161 for the last two years.

"Elected officials did this for public safety, not as a political issue. I'm happy to know that we're going to continue to be safe throughout the borough," said Mrs. McAllister.