The FDNY has proposed cutting 20 firehouses to help plug the city's deficit, but that pales in comparison to a $1.3 billion cut in state funding that would force it to close 40 more.
If the cuts are approved, FDNY Fire Chief Sal Cassano testified at the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee's Fiscal Year 2011 preliminary budget hearing, “every neighborhood [in New York] will be impaired and our entire operation will be taxed.”
Response times would go up, he added.
Elected officials have banded together to fight the city's proposed cuts as they wait for lawmakers in Albany to finish state budget negotiations. Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, the Fire Committee chair, said reducing fire services would be a big mistake.
“We cannot shortchange the safety of New Yorkers by forcing these cuts on our taxpayers,” Crowley said. “To follow through with these cuts is irresponsible, dangerous and potentially deadly.”
Last year, the City Council used discretionary funding to stave off 16 proposed firehouse closures. It is unclear what funds are available now to keep an even larger total open. By its own estimate the FDNY stands to save approximately $37 million if all 20 proposed firehouses close.
At the hearing, Cassano first said the fire department is planning to close the 16 firehouses on last year's chopping block, plus four others. But then, under questioning, he backtracked, saying the department has “not reached a conclusion on what fire companies will close.”
Councilman James Vacca urged the FDNY to publicize a list as soon as possible. “We're ready for a fight,” he said, “but we have to know where we're fighting.”