Wall Street Journal
May 7, 2010


Fire Department Hit But Police Are Spared

BY JOEL STONINGTON

Days after the attempted Times Square bombing, Mayor Michael Bloomberg spared New York police from expected cuts in his budget proposal. Firefighters weren't so lucky.

Twenty firehouses would close across the city and the Fire Department of New York would lose up to 399 firefighters out of a total of roughly 11,500 uniformed officers and 3,200 emergency medical technicians.

Also, the fifth firefighter on 60 engine companies would be eliminated to save money.

The news wasn't well received by some who said that firefighters also were first on the scene when the bomb was discovered.

"We will always be first on the scene as long as the fire houses are open and staffed," Uniformed Firefighters Association President Stephen Cassidy said. "We can't be there if Mayor Bloomberg gets his way and closes the fire companies."

Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano said he is "very concerned. When you close 20 fire companies, that has a rippling effect on the whole city."

Officials said they worry about response times, but the mayor says fires have been on the decline in the city, whereas the terror threat has intensified.

The firehouses to close in June are expected to be announced next week. There were 16 that the City Council managed to save last year that were not included in the baseline budget, and another four were just added to the chopping block.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly denied speculation that funding for his department was restored due to the Times Square bomb, and said the force would still be down 6,000 officers from its peak of 41,000.

"Even with the restoration of these police jobs, the NYPD will continue to struggle with 6,000 fewer police officers while shouldering the added burden of fighting terrorism," said Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association. "We must remember that the most recent attempt at terrorism in Times Square was only foiled because there was a police officer on the corner."