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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bronx Pols Say Firehouse Cuts Could Return Borough to Darker Days

Flanked by union reps, fellow Bronx pols and residents holding photos of burning buildings, Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. warned that the mayor's plan to cut firehouses could bring back the dark "Bronx is burning" days.

Bronx politicians, union leaders and firefighter representatives gathered at Engine 96/Ladder 54 in the South Bronx yesterday to oppose the closing of firehouses in the Bronx and throughout the city.

In an effort to balance the budget, Mayor Bloomberg has proposed closing 20 firehouses citywide. It's still unclear specifically which firehouses will be slated for closure, but Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., the Bronx's Council delegation and Council Fire committee chair Elizabeth Crowley wanted to remind the mayor of what happened last time the city cut fire companies in the northern borough.

“Last time the City closed fire companies in the 1970s, 25 percent of the Bronx burned down,” Crowley said.

In the 1970s, the Bronx was literally burning. Engine 96, where the rally was held, was one of the busiest fire companies in the world. Between 1970 and 1980, in seven different census tracts (out of the borough's 289 tracts), more than 97 percent of Bronx buildings were lost to fire and abandonment, according to data compiled by FDNY historian Joe Flood. In 44 other census tracts, more than 50 percent of buildings were lost to fire and abandonment.  

“While we all understand the need for the FDNY cut backs during this economic downturn, compromising public safety shouldn’t be an option," said Diaz, Jr. "Closing twenty companies will raise response times, leaving the public and firefighter’s safety in jeopardy. We fought hard to keep Ladder 53 on City Island open last year, and will do the same to avoid any closures that could put Bronxites at risk.”

Palma also recalled when fires were uncontrolled due to an under-funded FDNY. “Forty years later, we cannot allow these same mistakes to be made again and history cannot be allowed to repeat itself," she said.

Also in attendance were Bronx Council members Maria del Carmen Arroyo and Fernando Cabrera.


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