By Heather Grossmann
MANHATTAN — The FDNY is cutting staff at 49 of its companies across the five boroughs — 12 in Manhattan alone — effective Wednesday morning at 8 a.m.
The cuts are a result of the rising rate of medical leave among firefighters this year, which resulted in higher overtime expenses for the city in order to cover the shifts.
“Increased medical leave is costing us more in overtime, and we’re going to do everything we can to be fiscally prudent during these difficult economic times,” said Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta.
Tough calls are being made across the board as city agencies scramble to meet Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s goal of cutting their budgets by a total of $1.75 billion.
“I am dismayed by the proposed plan to reduce staff levels at the City’s firehouses,” Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said in a statement. “Penalizing firefighters for using medical leave by reducing staff levels can only lead to a greater need for medical leave, as firefighters endure the day-in, day-out rigors of doing the same job with less manpower.”
The agency’s labor contract stipulates that if more than 7.5 percent of firefighters are absent over a yearlong period, the Department can reduce staff to four on the 49 engines that employ five firefighters.
As of Tuesday, 7.53 percent of firefighters were on leave. The remaining 134 firehouses are already staffed with only four firefighters.
The FDNY noted in its release that New York City is the only city that staffs five firefighters on engines — most big cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, have three or four.