After weeks of heated debate, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council have reached a tentative agreement that would save four Queens FDNY companies from the chopping block.
Late Friday afternoon, the City Council hammered out the parameters of a deal that would save Engine Cos. 294 in Richmond Hill, 306 in Bayside and 328 in Far Rockaway and Ladder Co. 128 in Blissville from being closed. As of press time Tuesday, the Council had not voted on the budget.
The fire companies were among 20 across the city Bloomberg proposed in late May to close in order to save $55 million in the coming fiscal year.
Almost immediately after the announcement, unanimous condemnation of the mayor’s proposal came from the affected communities, which did just about everything imaginable — from holding demonstrations to writing letters and passing resolutions — to let the mayor know they found public safety to be their top priority.
The mayor, Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) and Chairman of the Council Finance Committee Domenic M. Recchia Jr. (D-Brooklyn) all praised a budget that preserved essential services in the face of state and federal budget cuts without raising taxes.
“I want to thank … the public. They called our offices, they flooded our inboxes, they showed up in force at our hearings and they told us exactly what was important to them,” wrote Recchia in a statement.
Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) sits on the Fire & Criminal Justice Committee and organized several efforts to rally public support for Engine Co. 306 in his Bayside district.
In a phone interview Monday, Halloran said that by going through both the Public Safety and Fire department budgets line by line, the Council trimmed certain programs in order to come up with the money to keep the fire companies open.
For example, Halloran said that measures such as adjusting fire call-box maintenance schedules and eliminating bureaucracy in vendor support were ways the Council readjusted line items to ensure the companies would remain open.
“I’m delighted to see that the firehouses were saved — not just Engine 306, but all the firehouses across Queens and the city,” he said.
“This was clearly democracy in action as communities raised their voices and expressed just how much of a lifeline their local firehouse is. The mayor and Speaker Quinn’s announcement that the fire companies will not be cut shows that our city’s leaders heard what their constituents demanded,” Uniformed Firefighters Association President Steve Cassidy wrote in a statement.