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Pols trim to spare Engine 306

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council reached a tentative agreement that neared final approval this week which would spare Bayside’s FDNY Engine Co. 306 from the chopping block.

The full Council was scheduled to vote late Tuesday on the proposal that would keep open 20 fire companies across the city that Bloomberg had proposed in May to close in order to save $55 million in the coming fiscal year.

In the weeks following the mayor’s announcement, Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) was critical of the proposal and organized a large rally outside the company’s firehouse at 40-18 214 Place. Halloran, who sits on the Council Fire & Criminal Justice Committee, said Monday that by trimming several programs in the Fire and Public Safety departments’ budgets the Council was able to come up with the money to prevent the fire companies from being closed.

“The restoration of funding to firehouses is essential. Response times in northeast Queens are far too long already,” he said.

“I am glad to hear the mayor and the leadership in the City Council were able to come to an agreement that would save Engine 306,” state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said in a statement.

“However, I find it disgraceful that the mayor would threaten the safety of communities like Bayside in order to gain concessions in the budget process. Bartering with residents’ safety is irresponsible and dangerous governing and, unfortunately, the Bloomberg administration has turned it into a habit.”

Frank Skala, president of the East Bayside Homeowners Association, called the mayor’s threat to shutter firehouses a hoax.

“I never thought they were in danger in the first place,” he said. “They chose very visible firehouses. Here, everyone knows where [Engine 306] is. It’s one block from my wooden church, one block from Bell Boulevard. It was meant for effect.”

Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) saluted residents for taking a strong stand against the closing of Engine 306.

“I want to thank the residents of northeast Queens for banding together to let Mayor Bloomberg know that we would not accept the closure of Engine 306. It was outrageous for the mayor to even propose closing 20 firehouses in New York City and thankfully our voices have been heard,” Braunstein said. “Moving forward, we must continue to work together to ensure that our community gets the resources and services that we deserve.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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