FDNY boss wants 300 hires

Even as his boss wields the budget ax over his department, Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta is calling for the city to hire more firefighters and keep firehouses open.

The commissioner, speaking to the City Council's Fire and Criminal Justice Services Committee, said hiring 300 new firefighters would save the FDNY in overtime costs.

But on the issue of firehouse closings, he acknowledged he may be overruled by Mayor Bloomberg, who is grappling with a $3.5
billion budget gap.

"If I had my druthers, I would not be closing any firehouses, not a single one," he said. "I don't have my druthers."

Citing the 343 FDNY members lost in theSept. 11, 2001, attacks, and an expected $125 million in overtime costs, Scoppetta told Council members new hires are needed to meet minimum staffing requirements.

The department is 642 members short of its authorized strength, he said. He said he hopes the mayor will approve bringing on 300 new firefighters expected to graduate from the Fire Academy next month.

The commissioner also insisted a proposal to close eight firehouses to save $10.8 million annually is not a done deal, though he acknowledged it could still happen.

He said the blue-ribbon panel which he heads, put together by Bloomberg to explore the possibility of firehouse closings, has extended its reporting deadline until April 21.

Frank Lombardi

Originally published on March 26, 2003