"It is alarming that so many fire company closures are even being proposed in the mayor's preliminary budget. Fire companies are critical to adequately address fire and emergency services," said Crowley, a Democrat from Queens, in a statement. "We have a responsibility to our tax-paying New Yorkers that when it comes to safety, we deliver. As chair, my priority is to keep our fire companies open."
The new Fire Department Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano said the cuts would amount to a 6 percent reduction in the number of companies. "It is certainly the most challenging thing we have faced in decades," he told the New York Times.
Seventy-three people died in fires in New York City in 2009, the lowest in the 95 years that the officials have been keeping records. The average response time is also at an all-time low at 4 minutes, 2 seconds. The department made a total of 475,000 runs last year in all categories -- double the figure of four decades ago.
Council Member James Vacca, who is working with Crowley on the issue, said that closing the ladder company in City Island in his district would double response times. "Last year, the City Council stated loudly and clearly that firehouse closures were out of the question," Vacca said.
Observers believe, however, that it will be much tougher this time to restore cutbacks in negotiations.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn told the Times that it was too early to say what can be done, but that closings would have the most "jarring impact on the department in its history." she said. "That is a part of history none of us want to say we helped create."