Sky's the Limit for Their Plea

Copyright 2003 Newsday, Inc.
Newsday (New York)
August 28, 2003 Thursday QUEENS EDITION

During the holiday weekend, firefighters will be taking their message to skies above the city and urging people to call for the reopening of six shuttered fire companies.
The leaders of the two firefighter unions said yesterday they planned to rent a banner-towing plane and have it flown over beaches, shopping centers and other places where large crowds are expected to gather during all three days of the Labor Day weekend.

The plane, which will be in the air nine hours daily, will pull a large sign reading: "Reopen the firehouses. Dial 311."
That is the telephone number established by Mayor Michael Bloomberg for citizens to get in touch with city agencies.

On Tuesday, the unions plan to have a bus caravan pass three of the engine companies - one in Brooklyn, one in Astoria and one in Harlem - that were eliminated. They also plan a pre-caravan news conference to release statistics they said would show that the response time has increased markedly in the six neighborhoods served by the units that were eliminated.

"We're not going to stop until the mayor reopens these units," said Martin Steadman, a spokesman for the Uniformed Fire Officers Association and Uniformed Firefighters Association.

The unions also said they had learned that Bloomberg has arranged for 300 new firefighters to be sworn in and start training on Sept. 8, three days before the city marks the two-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

"They won't be in the firehouses until Christmas, and by that time there will have been more retirements and we will still be short firefighters," Steadman said.