Firefighters, police facing long hours

By Kristina Wells and Chris McKenna
Times Herald-Record

It's tough enough being one of New York's Bravest or Finest.

New York City firefighters and cops have endured terrorism, budget cuts, hostile contract negotiations and day-to-day danger. Now they could face endless shifts and mounting frustration responding to emergency calls if transit workers hit the picket line this weekend.

Emergency services personnel are exempt from Mayor Mike Bloomberg's four-person-per-car commuting contingency plan, handed down by hizzoner Monday, a full week before the strike date. But that's little consolation when they consider what awaits them in the Big Apple.

Road closures. Gridlock. Long days. It all combines to make responding to an emergency situation in overcrowded Gotham chaotic.

"I'm gonna be working a lot," said Sal Ferraro, an officer with NYPD Transit Bureau who lives in Washingtonville. "They've already canceled our days off. Twelve hours a day, no days off."

But that's if the strike happens, which Ferraro isn't buying.

"If it does happen, it will be a day, at the most two," the 10-year NYPD veteran said. "The city will get an injunction from the court."

Two New York City firefighters who live in Orange County agreed with warnings that it may take their trucks longer to get to emergency scenes if the strike worsens traffic on city streets, as is expected.

But they sympathized with the transit workers, not the mayor, for whom they had only scorn.

"I'm in full support of the transit workers," said Patrick Dunn, a firefighter who lives in Highland Mills and works at a Bronx firehouse.

Dunn said Bloomberg is being hypocritical when he warns of safety problems the strike could pose because he plans to close eight city firehouses, a cost-saving move the firefighters say could lengthen response time and endanger lives.

"He's talking out of both sides of his mouth," Dunn said of the mayor.

Eddie Boles, a Bronx fire lieutenant who lives in Goshen, accused Bloomberg of trying to scare people about a strike so the union will back down. He said the mayor should be trying to broker a contract deal rather than broadcasting his contingency plan a week before a possible strike.

"The contingency plan is really directed at the emotions of the public," he said. "He's drumming up the sympathy of the public to go against the labor union. ... It's a tactic that City Hall uses all the time."