Whitestone fire chief named FDNY head

By Alex Robinson

A retired Whitestone fire chief is coming out of retirement to become Mayor Bill de Blasio’s FDNY commissioner.

De Blasio named Daniel Nigro, 65, as the newest commissioner in his administration last week. The Whitestone resident served as chief of department from 2001 until he retired in 2002 and led the FDNY following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

He ascended to chief of department after his superior, Peter Ganci, died when the World Trade Center collapsed.

“Dan was apart of this department in some of its most challenging moments,” de Blasio told reporters at the FDNY academy on Randall’s Island. “[He] rose to the occasion over and over again.”

Born in Bayside as the son of a firefighter, Nigro joined the FDNY in 1969 and served for 33 years before his retirement. He is credited with overseeing the merger of Emergency Medical Services with the FDNY.

“He had to lead the FDNY and inspire it through its darkest days and help get this department back on his feet,” de Blasio said.

Nigro faced his toughest test in the days and weeks that followed 9/11. He lost not only a superior, but also a friend in Ganci, whose son Chris attended the announcement ceremony.

“I remember thinking afterwards how proud my father would have been of you, Dan,” he said. “But I know for sure that today, he’d be beaming with pride to see you achieve this monumental achievement.”

Nigro rose through the ranks and was chief of operations before he was promoted to Ganci’s rank. After 9/11, he was forced to leave the department on a disability pension because of respiratory problems he suffered. Nigro said this will, however, not affect his duties as commissionaire.

“[It] precluded me from doing what these uniformed people do,” Nigro said in front of a group of probationary firefighters. “But that’s not what the mayor hired me to do. So that’s it.”

The mayor tapped Nigro despite rumors he was considering Mylan Denerstein, a former FDNY attorney who would have been the first black woman to get the Bravests’ top job.

The city recently settled a lawsuit with Fire Department applicants who had alleged racial discrimination. The city agreed to pay $98 million in back pay to minorities who claimed their applications to join the Bravest were rejected because of discrimination.

Although he has been enjoying his retirement, Nigro said he did not hesitate when the mayor contacted him about becoming his commissioner.

“Opportunities to make a difference do not come along often in one’s life, if at all,” Nigro said. “Being apart of this administration is truly exciting.”

Nigro will replace Salvatore Cassano, who has been FDNY commissioner since 2010.

“I always wanted to be part of the Fire Department,” the incoming commissioner said. “Coming back is a dream, a dream come true.”

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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