Budget Ax Takes Another Swing At FDNY
For the fifth consecutive budget cycle in New York City, funding cuts to the Fire Department have been proposed that, if enacted, may result in the closure of a number of Engine and Ladder companies this summer.
The City Council’s Fire and Criminal Justice Committee learned at its budgetary hearing last Thursday, Mar. 7, the preliminary budget for the 2014 fiscal year proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg excludes $43.6 million in funds to maintain the operation of 20 companies which were threatened to be closed last year.
As part of the final budget negotiations, the City Council provided the funds to keep the endangered units in operation for another year. In its report, the committee cited an estimate from the city’s Office of Management and Budget that $44 million must be added to the 2014 fiscal year budget to prevent the closure of any units.
The identities of which Engine and Ladder companies would be at risk of shutting down was not disclosed in last Friday’s hearing. By law, the city must provide public advanced notice no less than 45 days before a company is permanently closed.
In previous years when similar cuts were threatened, several local units-including Engine Co. 294 in Richmond Hill, Ladder Co. 128 in Long Island City, Engine Co. 206 in East Williamsburg and Engine Co. 218 in Bushwick-were identified as possibly being on the chopping block. However, all of the units were kept in operation through funding found allocated by the City Council.
Eric Yun-a spokesperson for City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, who chairs the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee-told the Times Newsweekly in a phone interview that Crowley and her City Council colleagues would once again fight to restore the funding to keep all Fire Department units operating in the year ahead.
According to Yun, Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano told the committee at last Thursday’s hearings the closure of 20 fire companies would seriously affect the ability of the FDNY to operate properly.
“The council member is committed to fighting these cuts and making sure we keep the Fire Department fully staffed and New Yorkers safe,” Yun said. He went on to note that, “We’re pretty confident that the City Council has made it clear we won’t tolerate these cuts.”
The 2014 fiscal year takes effect on July 1. By law, the City Council and mayor must agree upon a budget for that fiscal year by June 30.