Star power in Bravest pay battle


A grass-roots campaign supported by James Gandolfini, star of "The Sopranos," is seeking raises for the city's firefighters.
The "FDNY Is Worth It" campaign kicks off this week with radio spots narrated by Gandolfini and posters featuring actors Denis Leary and Steve Buscemi - a former firefighter - and hip hop entertainer Doug E. Fresh.

Evoking Sept. 11, 2001, the campaign's Web site recalls the FDNY's heroism that day, and says that a firefighter earns less than a FedEx worker or a manager at Starbucks.

"Everybody remembers what the FDNY did one day," Gandolfini says in public service radio spots released yesterday. "Maybe one day they'll get paid like it."

"They support us, and the city should be ashamed of themselves," said Steve Cassidy, head of the firefighters union.

E-mail campaign

Visitors to the Web site - - are urged to send E-mails to Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Pataki on behalf of New York's Bravest.

Law student and former Internet entrepreneur Susan Berkowitz organized the campaign and persuaded media, advertising, printing and other companies to donate more than $1 million worth of services.

Berkowitz said the Web site had gotten about 5,000 hits in its first week of operation. Lately, it has been getting about 100 E-mails an hour from all over the world.

"The citizens of New York really love our firefighters. We feel passionate about them and respect what they do every day," said Berkowitz.

Firefighters have been without a contract for two years and are in salary negotiations with the city at the same time the FDNY faces massive budget cuts.