Reporting Peter Haskell
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – New York City firefighters hit the streets Friday, marching over the Brooklyn Bridge in protest.
The protest saw a massive show of support, including community leaders and politicians, rallying against Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to close up to 20 firehouses.
“The average taxpayer who thinks their voice can’t be heard, it can be heard, it can be heard today,” Uniformed Firefighters Association leader Steve Cassidy said. “Today’s the day that we let Mike Bloomberg and his cronies realize that we’re going to stand up and fight to keep our firehouses open.”
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The march started at a firehouse in Brooklyn that’s among those that could be shut down.
News of the closures made many people furious, worried about what will happen if a fire erupts at their house.
“They’re all wood. They’ll go up like that. We can’t wait one more second for another company to come. We need this company,” said Philip Wilentz of Brooklyn Heights.
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There have been dozens of protests around the city since Bloomberg announced the closures.
The Mayor’s Office points out that since the last round of firehouse closures in 2003, fire deaths have reached an all-time low. Some people CBS 2′s Kristin Thorne spoke with said it’s not ideal that the firehouses may close, but something has to give in this financial climate.
“You know there are trade offs. There are issues people care about. Sometimes it’s education. Sometimes it’s public safety. There are trade offs that have to be made,” said Bonnie Campbell of Park Slope.Firefighters warn closing fire companies will cost lives. Just last week, Ladder 161, one of those threatened to be closed, saved a man’s life in a Coney Island fire.
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Uniformed Firefighter’s Association President Steve Cassidy said if that firehouse was closed, that man would have died.
On City Island, residents are worried about the firehouse closures. The problem there is its isolation.
“If the Pelham Bay Bridge is up, forget it,” said resident Paul Kline. ”If the Hutchinson River Bridge is up, forget it, there’s no way to get here.”
Kline has lived on City Island for 17 years. For him, this is personal.
“I had a fire in the house probably 12 years ago. If it wasn’t for that fire company, we would have lost the house,” he said.
The Fire Department points out that while Ladder 53 is slated to close, Engine 70 would remain open.
What do you think about the plan to close city fire stations? Sound off below in our comments section.