City Island residents cry out against ladder closure

CITY ISLAND - Hundreds of City Island residents took to the streets Friday night, demanding Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the FDNY reconsider the scaling back of hours at a local ladder company in an effort to cut spending.

"Ladders are always good on fire scenes,? says firefighter Justin Sellina. "I wish Mayor Bloomberg would open up his eyes."

Due to budget cuts, the FDNY announced last month that beginning Jan. 17, Ladder 53 will not operate between 6 p.m. and 9 a.m. While the local engine company will remain open around the clock, top-floor firefighting operations will be handled by a ladder company from Co-op City.

"That could take at least nine minutes, by the department?s own estimate," says Liza DiMartini, of City Island. "I don't want to depend on firehouses that are nine minutes away."

Councilman Jimmy Vacca, who took part in the protest, says he will appeal to the mayor not to close the ladder overnight, especially in light of a recent fire that destroyed several businesses in the commercial district on City Island Avenue.

"For the amount of money you're going to save, compared to the amount of property and lives you're going to eventually lose, the math doesn't work," says resident Cynthia Conley.

The City Council and the FDNY commissioner will hold an oversight hearing on the proposed closure next Friday. If the measure is passed, Ladder 53 will be shut down at night the following day.

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