Volume 22, Number 50 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | April 23 - 29, 2010
Engine 4 fire company looks primed to be cut
By Robert Voris
Scores of firefighters from companies throughout Lower Manhattan rallied Wednesday morning outside Engine Company 4 against Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to eliminate as many as 62 fire companies on July 1.
“It is morally wrong to balance the budget on our most vulnerable citizens, our elderly and our children,” said Lt. Edward Boles, treasurer of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association. “We say, ‘No!’” The crowd of firefighters behind him shouted out ‘no’ in unison.
While the houses to be closed have not been identified, Engine Company 4 was set to be shuttered last year, before it was saved with money from the City Council’s discretionary fund.
Borough President Scott Stringer said the new proposal was a “real slap in the face to the City Council.” Stringer characterized the firehouse cuts as a stopgap measure, saying that “there’s no long-range plan here” that will properly prioritize the F.D.N.Y. in the city’s budget.
The choice of Engine Company 4 for the rally was no accident. The firehouse is set within the Financial Square skyscraper on South St., less than a mile from the World Trade Center site. The company was on the scene at a seven-alarm fire on Grand St. last Sunday that left one person dead and more than 200 homeless.
“With all the needs and growing population of Lower Manhattan, now is not the time to be eliminating essential life-saving services here,” Councilmember Margaret Chin, who attended the rally, said in a statement.
Steve Ritea, an F.D.N.Y. spokesman, said that the rally was “premature.” He noted that the proposed closures before the Council were preliminary, and no houses were specified.
The city had 73 fire fatalities in 2009, the fewest since 1919 and department records showed a record response time.
But Rocky Raimondi, a firefighter at Ladder Company 18 on Pitt St., said that firefighters today do a great deal more than fight fires.
“Engine 4’s an E.M.S. engine, so they’re trained as first-responders,” he said as the crowd of firefighters, many of them dressed for an afternoon softball game, milled in the driveway. “This house closes, you’ve got Engine 6 and Engine 10 to cover narrow streets on an isolated peninsula with heavy traffic and a daytime population of a million. How’s that going to work?”
At nearby Elevated Acre square public plaza, Annabelle Holguin, 33, was shepherding her class of 10 toddlers from Trinity Pre-school. Even with two other engine companies nearby, she agreed with Raimondi’s assessment.
“I think it’s going to make it less safe,” she said. “There’s just so many people down here every day. The people who live here, the workers, all the kids. I mean, these buildings are just huge.”