Protesters rally against closure of fire houses

MANHATTAN - First responders and members of FDNY unions from the Bronx and beyond descended on City Hall Tuesday to rally against the proposed closure of 16 fire companies and over two dozen ambulance tours.

The fire companies, including Ladder 53 that serves City Island, are set to close July 1. Opponents of the cost-cutting measure say shutting down fire companies will shorten response times and place lives in danger.

"They're all playing Russian Roulette with the lives on New York City taxpayers," says Steve Cassidy, president of Uniformed Firefighters' Association.

However, Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta says without union cooperation on an alternative proposal, the closures will have to go through in an effort to reduce spending. Another round of closures, which is expected to affect 12 more fire houses, is planned for next January.

"We have carefully picked companies with an effort to reduce any impact on operation," he says.

Scoppetta adds that closures could have been avoided if the FDNY were to reduce manpower in 60 fire companies from five to four people. The Uniformed Firefighters' Association says, however, that such a move would have hindered the companies' efforts to battle fires.

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