By Lauren Henry
MANHATTAN—New York City’s Fire Department fears budget cuts will leave the city at risk.
The budget cuts proposed in Mayor Bloomberg’s 2012 budget plan means 20 fire companies within NYC’s five boroughs will shut down this year.
“Firefighters and fire companies in New York City are stretched to the breaking point, and I fear what will happen if one more company is cut,” said Capt. Alexander Hagan, President of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.
Click to hear how the Uniformed Fire Officers Association have responded to the budget cuts.
Hagan said the cuts mean that almost half of the neighborhoods would be affected by the decreased fire protection. There are 218 firehouses currently in NYC. Hagan predicts the government would spread the proposed closing of 20 fire companies among the five boroughs and affect 20 of the 52 councilmanic districts.
To better understand the effect of these changes, he compared fire protection to the construction of fabric.
“Fire protection in a large city is like a cloth. Every company adds to the strength of the fabric and when you start removing fabrics you put holes in the cloth, or you lower the tread count; you weaken that fabric, and you make it easier to tear,” Hagan said.
Spokesperson for Mayor Bloomberg, Marc LaVorgna said it is not the Mayor’s intention to put the city at risk.
“We have been hit with historic reductions in state aid and a major drop-off in federal fundings while at the same time the state and federal governments are increasing our costs to provide the same services through mandates,” LaVorgna said. “Essentially squeezing us on both sides.”
The proposed 2012 budget states, “The city cannot absorb state and federal cuts without layoffs and cuts to vital services.” This statement was released May 6.
LaVorgna cited a time in NYC’s history in the 1970’s when finances fell apart. The city could not pay for cleaning streets, running public schools, fighting crime and fire and many other essential services. LaVorgna said New Yorkers and businesses left the city in a mass exodus. It took years for businesses to recover.
“We are facing much of the same circumstances today,” LaVorgna said.
LaVorgna said the cuts are essential changes to protect the future of the city.
The mayoral office maintained that fire and crime are at a record low. The government is focusing their resources at new and innovative ways to protect the city.
Hagan believes this is not enough. With 35 years of field experience, Hagan maintains that NYC needs each and every fire company.
“The everyday New Yorker does not think about fire. For well over a hundred years, you call the fire department or pull the alarm box, we show up in a very few minutes and we throw ourselves in harm’s way” Hagan said. “It is kind of taken for granted much the way you take air for granted.”
Hagan said that closing any of the proposed 20 fire companies will cost the city in unnecessarily loss of life and tax savings.
Hagan cited a 2009 Columbia University Capstone Project: FDNY Property Saved Indicator. The study concluded that firefighters save the city over $3 billion in property damages while only costing the city only $1.5 billion.
“The mayor takes fire protection for granted, the same way he takes air for granted, the same way we all take air for granted,” Hagan said.
“We are trying to raise the consciousness of the leaders of the city council to help them see the folly of closing the fire department,” Hagan said.
As part of raising public awareness, Engine 4 held a rally in mid May. This fire company located near Wall Street has been slated to close for three years now and is literally fighting for its existence.
The mayor has not released which companies will be closed.
Hagan said that no matter which companies are closed, all of NYC will be affected.
“We believe if one single fire company is closed — the government has failed the people — we have failed the people — and the people have failed themselves.”Vodpod videos no longer available.
Lauren Henry may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information: