Adams declines to say if he’ll sign newly-passed council bills requiring EMS workers be given body armor

Mayor Eric Adams did not say whether he would sign a bill the City Council passed Thursday requiring the FDNY to provide body armor to EMS workers. April 12, 2024.
File photo/Dean Moses

Mayor Eric Adams on Friday declined to say whether or not he would sign newly passed City Council legislation requiring the Fire Department to provide bullet and stab resistant body armor to emergency medical services workers.

The bill, which passed the council 48 to 0 on Thursday, would essentially codify an already existing practice of providing body armor to emergency services medical workers, while setting requirements that the vests meet the National Institute of Justice’s bullet and stab resistant standards. A second measure passed Thursday would require the FDNY to train EMS workers in de-escalation and self-defense every three years.

Adams, during an interview on Pix11 Friday morning, did not immediately commit to ink the body armor bill, when asked if he would sign the legislation.

“I’m definitely going to do everything that’s possible to keep our EMTs (emergency medical technicians) and EMS employees safe,” Adams said. “But I have to look over the bill. There’s a whole process to determine how we move forward. But it’s my goal to always ensure my 300,000 plus public servants are safe.”

However, City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli, who sponsored both bills, said he thinks the mayor — a former police captain — will sign the legislation. At the very least, Borelli added, the mayor will not veto them.

“I’m very confident he will because this was negotiated with the department,” Borelli said, in an interview. “I don’t think it was priority number one for Eric Adams because it wasn’t a controversial bill … This was just something we worked out with the department based on what they were doing, what they should be doing.”

Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli.Credit: Emil Cohen/NYC Council Media Unit

The more controversial piece, Borelli said, was working out the details of the EMS workers training bill, which will have some price tag attached to it. The body armor bill, he said, would have virtually no cost attached because it is simply cementing an already existing practice.

“The fiscal impact note for this was like nothing,” he said.

Oren Barzilay, president of FDNY EMS Local 2507, said in a statement that if the mayor doesn’t sign the bill, “it means they don’t want to pay us for the dangers we face.” EMS workers within the FDNY are paid less than firefighters — as well as all other first responders, according to the union — and have been fighting for pay-parity within the department for many years.

The measures are aimed at ensuring EMS workers have high-quality body armor to protect them during the large volume of life-threatening situations they respond to on a daily basis. 

The safety risks associated with the job include trauma, threats of injury and actual assaults, all while making relatively modest wages, according to the council. During the last fiscal year — Fiscal Year 2023 — EMS workers responded to 30,306 reported incidents that were considered life-threatening.

During a Thursday news conference before the vote, Borelli referenced recent instances where EMS workers were killed on the job. One of them was 61-year-old Lt. Alison Russo-Elling, who was stabbed to death in Astoria in 2022 in a seemingly random attack.

“These folks don’t have a choice whether they get to respond to an incident or not, we expect them to go wherever the danger is,” Borelli said. “They’re our angels and we should treat them like that and make sure that they are given the best chance to come home safely.”