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Save cops, firemen, sanitation serices from cuts: CB 5

“I’m very concerned about the provision of essential services,”...

By Dustin Brown

Cops on patrol, active fire companies and regular garbage collection top Community Board 5’s list of priority services its members want saved from the sharp edge of the city’s budget ax.

“I’m very concerned about the provision of essential services,” said Gary Giordano, the district manager for CB 5, at the board’s monthly meeting Feb. 12 in Glendale.

Giordano voiced his fears about the potential loss of city services on Feb. 11 at the Queens budget hearing for fiscal 2004, where Borough President Helen Marshall warned people who had gathered to testify that the city “is facing the largest budget deficit in its history” as it weighs what to cut.

While commending Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his “sincere attempts ... to continue the provision of the great majority of essential and important services,” Giordano also stressed that any reductions in police, fire or sanitation service would deal a heavy blow to residents of CB 5, which covers Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village.

Low manpower is a perennial complaint from residents of the 104th Precinct, and the budget crisis has sparked concern that the size of force will be depleted further.

Even before the next round of budget cuts, the uniformed personnel at the 104th Precinct number only 180, which is 22 fewer than the 202 officers and supervisors already budgeted for the precinct, Giordano said.

“The assignment of an additional 22 police officers to the 104th Precinct is critical, as the backlog of unanswered calls is among the highest in Queens,” Giordano said.

Robert Holden, the president of the Juniper Park Civic Association and chairman of the community board’s public safety committee, is upset the precinct was assigned only nine new officers last month from among the rookies who just graduated from the police academy.

“That’s a ridiculous number,” Holden said.

Last year the 104th Precinct went into backlog 247 times, the highest number for any other precinct in Patrol Borough Queens North, Holden said. When a precinct goes into backlog, it means five jobs were held at once with no units available, or any job was held for 30 minutes with no units available.

“The backlog is a true, telltale sign that your precinct is undermanned,” Holden said.

Police officials did not return a phone call requesting comment about the precinct’s high incidence of backlog.

The city is also weighing cutbacks for the Fire Department. Last year’s announcement that eight fire companies were slated for closure included Brooklyn’s Squad 252, which is based in Bushwick at Decatur Street and Central Avenue, not far from the border with Ridgewood.

Although a blue ribbon panel was formed to determine which companies can be safely closed, fears still run high that some of the same fire houses will be targeted.

“Many of our communities are very congested. We have attached homes, and fire can too easily spread from one building to the next,” Giordano said. “Plans to close Squad 252 in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn are especially alarming at a time when the danger of hazardous materials is gripping our nation.”

Squads are versatile companies trained as hazardous material technicians to serve as the first line of defense against nuclear, biological and chemical attacks. They also can tackle the same duties as engine, ladder and rescue companies, such as supplying water to douse fires, searching burning buildings and performing rescues.

Giordano said sanitation services “are among the most important to the health and stability of our communities” and stressed the need to preserve them at current levels.

He wants to see the city maintain residential garbage collection at twice a week — with five days a week at schools and daily removal of garbage from city litter baskets — while continuing consistent cleanup of illegal dumping locations, which number 30 in Community Board 5.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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