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Crowley slams city for proposals to cut up to 42 firehouses

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The first hearing is out of the way, but the City Council Fire and Criminal Justice Committee, headed by Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), is no closer to learning which engine companies the city has on the chopping block amid looming budget cuts.

Last year, the Council agreed to give up part of its member items to restore $17 million in funding to keep 16 engine companies around the city from closing. This year, the number of threatened engine companies is up to 20, with another 42 closures possible if the state passes a worst-case-scenario budget April 1.

“The meager savings derived from the closing of fire companies must be compared to the losses that will accrue from reducing coverage by our already overstretched fire protection,” Crowley said in a statement after a March 10 rally in front of City Hall.

Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano testified before the committee that same day, but Crowley’s office said he did not reveal any details about what firehouses would be cut. The councilwoman fears Bushwick’s Engine 271, which covers parts of Ridgewood, will be on the list as it was last year.

Alexander Hagan, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, warned that response times to structure fires increased by 11 seconds after the city shuttered six engine companies in May 2003.

Crowley also got support from Queens Council members Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) and Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park).

“The last time the city closed fire houses in the early ’90’s, the outcome proved to be deadly as residents of the 29th District in Richmond Hill tragically perished due to lack of services,” Koslowitz said.

The Council is still working on a formal response to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s preliminary budget. The deadline for the final budget is July 1.

The FDNY responded to 473,024 total incidents in 2009. Fire companies are strategically positioned to respond to an emergency within three to four minutes.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 5:53 pm, October 10, 2011
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