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Engine 306 supporters celebrate

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If everyone responsible for saving FDNY Engine Co. 306 had been standing at the rally outside its firehouse last week, it would have been a fire hazard.

A number of elected officials gathered at the corner of 214th Place and 41st Avenue to congratulate City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) for delivering a budget that saved 20 fire companies across the city from closing and to thank the countless organizations and individuals who threw their support behind the cause.

“We clearly understand in the City Council these are tough economic times,” said Quinn, who characterized Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s call for $1 billion worth of cutbacks from the 2012 budget as “honest” and “fiscally responsible.”

“How you do that is the question,” she continued. “What we do and don’t spend money on speaks volumes about what your priorities are.”

“How do you look Bayside in the eye and say you’re going to be a little less safe than the West Side of Manhattan?” the speaker asked.

When the FDNY released a list in May of the 20 companies it planned to close in order to save $55 million, affected communities across the city reacted by holding rallies and voicing their concerns to both the mayor and speaker.

In the 11th hour, the Council restored funding to the companies — partly by making reductions to other budget lines in the department.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), chairwoman of the Fire & Criminal Justice Committee, called the $1.5 billion the city spends on the FDNY the “best investment the city of New York makes in its budget.”

Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), who organized a rally in front of the firehouse last month, said the service fire companies provide transcend the value of the budget’s dollars and cents.

“We know at the end of the day keeping firehouses open saves lives,” he declared.

Halloran said that in order to avoid perennially having to fight against closures, he would like to see fire companies become baseline budget items.

Community Board 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece agreed with that sentiment.

“We don’t just want to save this firehouse today but always. Let’s take firehouses off the table,” he said.

Iannece corrected himself when tongue in cheek he deliberately referred to the Council speaker as “Mayor Quinn,” an acknowledgement that this serves as a political victory for her toward a possible 2013 mayoral bid.

Quinn, who spent the day at similar events at a library in Jamaica and a senior center in Holliswood, refused to feed such speculation.

“Saving this firehouse is part of my responsibility to New Yorkers,” the Council speaker said.

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

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