GIFF IN A TIFF OVER CLOSING OF FIRE CO.

By ASHLEY CROSS and STEPHANIE GASKELL


April 27, 2003 -- City Council Speaker Gifford Miller joined about a hundred protestors yesterday outside Engine 44 on the Upper East Side to urge Mayor Bloomberg not to dissolve their local fire company.

Engine 44, on 75th between Second and Third avenues, is one of nine fire companies to be shut under the mayor's budget plan. It will be replaced with Squad 252 from Brooklyn.

Miller acknowledged that Bloomberg has already made up his mind about the company's closing, although the City Council has suggested other cuts to try to keep them open. The closings will save about $12 million.

"The mayor has the power to do this, and we've told him this is not what we want," Miller said of the fire company blocks away from his 82nd Street home.

Engine 44 will be replaced by Squad 252, which is trained to deal with hazardous materials. The squad will leave its home at 617 Central Ave. in Bushwick and move into Engine 44's house at 221 E. 75th St.

"[Engine 44] has been here since 1881," said Elaine Shea, a 35-year-old attorney who lives nearby. "They know the doors, stairways, exits and all the weirdness of the buildings in this neighborhood. If you're coming from Brooklyn, how do you know that?"



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