Daniel Nigro serving as chief of department for the FDNY on Sept. 16, 2001. (Credit: HENNY RAY ABRAMS/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Mayor Bill de Blasio has named retired fire chief Daniel Nigro as the new FDNY commissioner.
Nigro was appointed Friday afternoon during a ceremony at the FDNY Academy.
“Our administration is committed to building on this department’s impressive record, increasing diversity in the ranks, and improving response time and I know Daniel has what it takes to lead the FDNY forward,” de Blasio said.
“For more than 30 years, I’ve watched the men and women of the FDNY perform fearlessly in the face of tremendous hardship and I couldn’t be prouder to lead this team of heroic New Yorkers,” Nigro said.
A 32-year veteran of the FDNY, Nigro was named chief of department after the Sept. 11 attacks. The previous chief of department, Peter Ganci, died in the World Trade Center collapse.
“My father loved Dan. He loved him,” Lt. Chris Ganci said during the official announcement.
“I remember thinking then, afterwards, how proud my fsather would have been of you then, but I know for sure he’d be beaming with pride to see you achieve ths momnmental achievement,” Chris Ganci added.
Nigro, who retired in 2002 after suffering from respiratory illness from working at ground zero, was awarded a disability pension. He said he will be giving up that pension to become commissioner, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
Nigro was widely regarded for his leadership after 9/11, the day 343 firefighters were killed.
“In the aftermath of 9/11, Daniel led the FDNY through some of its darkest days with an unrelenting determination to rescue and protect our fellow New Yorkers,” de Blasio said.
While fire chief, he oversaw the 1996 merger between the FDNY, which has about 10,000 uniformed firefighters, and the city’s ambulance services.
Uniformed Firefighters Association president Steve Cassidy was supportive of Nigro’s appointment.
“He retired young, he’s still a young man. I think he’s the right person at the right time,” Cassidy told 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck. “Public safety remains a critical concern for the citizens of New York and Danny’s a demonstrated leader.”
Alexander Hagen, president of the FDNY Uniformed Fire Officers Association, called Nigro a “person of great leadership and experience.”
“Having worked with him for almost 40 years, I can truly say that the FDNY will have a person with the knowledge and respect of the thousands of firefighters and officers that he represents,” he said. “When you have a handshake agreement with Dan Nigro, you don’t even need a signature. He is truly a man of his word.”
But when he takes the helm from outgoing commissioner Sal Cassano, Nigro will also be inheriting a number of challenges, including criticism about the department’s response time to 911 calls.
“Today, on average, when somebody is in need of emergency medical service the average response time is greater than nine minutes. In life-threatening situations you don’t have nine minutes,” City Council member Elizabeth Crowley said recently.
Another hurdle will be to work to integrate the FDNY, whose members are nearly all male and nearly 90 percent white.
“The diversity is a great challenge, but it’s a challenge I look forward to working with many people on and to solve and to bring this department into a very bright future,” Nigro said.
In March, the de Blasio administration agreed to pay $98 million in back pay and benefits in a settlement to a long-running lawsuit that charged the FDNY discriminated against minority applicants. As part of the agreement, the fire department has been required to change its recruiting policies to increase diversity.
After a lawsuit by the Vulcan Society, a fraternal organization of black firefighters, a federal judge had ruled that the FDNY’s written entrance exam unfairly excluded hundreds of qualified minority applicants between 1999 and 2007.
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