The Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA), an advocacy organization representing FDNY firefighters decried on Monday Mayor Eric Adams’ budget cuts they say will affect some of the city’s busiest stationhouses.
UFA President Andrew Ansbro didn’t pull any punches when condemning proposed cuts to the FDNY that the mayor said were brought about due to the ongoing migrant crisis. Ansbro charged that the axing of labor could mean the difference between life and death.
“The FDNY has reduced staffing on 20 of its engine companies in New York City,” Ansbro said. “The engine companies that are losing staffing are among the busiest in the city.”
According to the UFA, stationhouses in the East Village, Midtown Manhattan, and Harlem are all among the locations expected to bear the brunt of the cuts. However, Ansbro said it is not just these areas that will feel the burn. In the event of a fire in another location, Ansbro says there will be fewer smoke eaters to respond.
“In a job where seconds matter, this will undoubtedly cost minutes. This can be the difference between life and death,” Ansbro said.
While the non-profit advocacy organization is sounding the alarm regarding the cuts, they did say the numbers will only amount to 20 fewer active firefighters on duty at a given time. When asked if such a low number could make a meaningful difference to a fire station, Ansbro scoffed.
“If it’s the one down the block from your house, you’d probably think differently,” Ansbro said.
The UFA says that the cut firefighters in particular are used to help extend hoses and without them it could take the lines 50% longer to be stretched.
Councilmember Joann Ariola also lent her voice to call for the FDNY cuts to be restored.
“The removal of the existing fifth firefighter positions from engine companies around New York City directly puts the safety and well-being of New Yorkers at risk. Fifth, firefighters are crucial because they help take the strain and stress off fellow engine crews and thereby reducing the likelihood of injury in a fire,” Ariola said.
In response to this press conference, a City Hall Spokesperson stressed that FDNY is key to keeping the city safe; however, all agencies in the city have to tighten their belts due to fiscal strains and lack of aid and timely support from the State and Federal government
“The Fire Department’s top priority is to keep New Yorkers safe, and every decision we make is with fire safety in mind. In the face of significant fiscal challenges, this administration continues to balance the budget, just as the law requires, while simultaneously minimizing disruption to services. As a result of the lack of significant and timely support from Albany or Washington, D.C., every agency had to dig into their own budgets to find savings. The mayor has been clear that he will never do anything to put public safety at risk, and this temporary change, representing a small fraction of our engine companies, will not affect response times whatsoever or derail the FDNY from this mission to respond quickly to fires. This adjustment in the number of firefighters is part of our contract with the union and is directly tied to use of medical leave. As soon as medical leave usage falls below the contractually designated threshold, the fifth firefighter will be restored,” a City Hall Spokesperson said.