AX-MAN MIKE SPARES HIS OWN FIREHOUSE

By STEPHANIE GASKELL

April 10, 2003 -- Mayor Bloomberg's hit list of eight fire-engine companies includes one just a few blocks from his tony Upper East Side home - but its doors won't be closing.

A unit from Brooklyn is slated to move in, and the neighborhood will not lose any of its protection.

Engine 44, located at 221 E. 75th St., is one of eight engine companies being dissolved.

But Squad 252, which is trained to deal with hazardous materials, is scheduled to leave Brooklyn to occupy the engine company's firehouse and will respond to fires in the area.

The mayor lives on East 79th Street. City Council Speaker Gifford Miller has an apartment several blocks away on East 82nd Street.

That has some officials wondering why this firehouse will be spared.

"Why are we closing these firehouses versus closing others in more affluent communities?" asked council member Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn), who chairs the Fire and Criminal Justice Services Committee.

"I don't understand why these neighborhoods are in jeopardy and the other one suffers no loss."

Monday, Bloomberg approved the recommendation of a panel to close eight fire companies. In addition to the soon-to-be-replaced Engine 44, four companies in Brooklyn, two in Queens and one in Harlem are getting the ax.

"It definitely raises the question of resources and allocation of resources," Clarke said. But the Fire Department said it was "nonsense" to suggest the fire deployment is connected to where the mayor lives.

"It has nothing to do with the mayor," said FDNY spokesman Frank Gribbon.

"The department wants to have an increased HazMat capability in Manhattan," he explained.

The department currently has two HazMat units - one in the Village and one on West 43rd Street. "This gives us a third unit in Manhattan," he said.

Glenn Corbett, assistant professor of fire science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, was a member of the blue-ribbon panel charged with studying the closings.

He said the proximity of Engine 44 to the mayor's house "was obvious from the beginning but it never really came up in the discussions."

"The city told us it was apolitical, and they used statistical data to try to justify the closings," he said.

Miller has denounced the mayor's decision to close firehouses and said he will continue to lobby the mayor to change his mind.

"The speaker has fought equally against the closing of all firehouses and he will continue to push to keep all the firehouses open," said his spokesman, Chris Policano.



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