Thursday, September 01, 2005

Firehouse Closings

We have just gotten word from a very reliable source that there are at least 20 firehouses on the chopping block if the mayor gets re-elected. This should come as no surprise to those of us who have followed this issue and have paid attention to the Bloomberg/Shaw mindset. It is time, however, for the Democratic mayoral candidates to bring this issue front and center.

The way to do this is to reach out to the impacted communities, particularly in East Harlem and Williamsburg, and look to enlist the help of the UFA and the UFOA. An attempt should be made to get a hand on the old Dinkins "doomsday" list and use it - since no real siting studies have been done since 1975 - to inform the neighborhoods where firehouses are targeted what lies in store for them.

The inevitability of this comes from the fact that Deputy Shaw, eerily the reincarnation of one of his predecessors Norman Steisel, has made it clear that the FDNY is, "ripe for finding productivity savings..." It even goes beyond this, however. We were told a story that when the mayor went to Albany in 2003 seeking an additional $300 million in state aid he brought the dyspeptic Shaw with him.

When the mayor and Shaw met with Majority Leader Joe Bruno one of the firehouses still on the chopping block was Engine 282 in Middle Village, Queens, an area that happens to be represented by Republican Serph Maltese. When Maltese, who was at the meeting started to raise the firehouse issue, Shaw attempted to cut him off saying, "We're not here to discuss firehouses". At which point an unnamed senator started to scream at Shaw and it got so bad that the little deputy fled the room.

Of course with $300 million in play it was inevitable that the Queens company was not going to close. The story is a potent reminder, though, of the aggressively anti-FDNY mindset that animates the Bloomberg team. It seems that the normally fiscally carefree, raise the taxes mayor, becomes a prudent fiscal conservative only when it comes to NYC's Bravest. Clearly, the handwriting is on the wall for the Department in a Bloomberg second term.