July 26, 2004

NYPD, FDNY protesters won't move


The city tried without success yesterday to move police and firefighters from their current protest site near Madison Square Garden, union officials said.

"We had the Police Department try to move our pen from where they put it, from where we have been for the past week," said Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.

Lynch and Stephen Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, went to the scene on 33rd Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues with their lawyers yesterday morning to stop the city's action, they said.

They said a top police official "tells the guys in the pen he wasn't happy with the pen and he was going to move the pen," Cassidy said. "Obviously, we didn't go."

The two union officials said the police official was Asst. Chief Bruce Smolka, commanding officer of Patrol Borough Manhattan South, who was using a tape measure to check the location of the pen.

Paul Browne, the deputy commissioner for public information, said yesterday that the disagreement arose because the protesters were too close to the Garden's delivery bays.

"It's being resolved," he said.

The metal pen was in the same place by late afternoon, but the union leaders said they did not know if the city would make another attempt to move it.

"We don't know what will happen next. Time will tell. I think they realize that the First Amendment belongs to New York City police and firefighters, as well," Lynch said.

The two uniformed services have been protesting the lack of new contracts and said they thought they had an agreement with the city about where they could demonstrate.

The union leaders said yesterday's action by the city was proof that their protest was having an impact with the public and the news media.

The firefighters said they were going to expand their protest last night and picket outside a Bronx town hall meeting where Mayor Michael Bloomberg was scheduled to speak.

"Firefighters have made a decision they will not limit the protest to the Garden," union spokesman Tom Butler said.

Both unions, along with many other unions, plan a number of protests during the Republican National Convention here from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2 in an effort to wring a better contract offer from Bloomberg, a Republican.