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Three Manhattan Fire Companies Facing Budget Ax

By Patrick Hedlund | May 18, 2011 5:49pm | Updated on May 19, 2011 6:55am

By Jill Colvin and Patrick Hedlund

DNAinfo Reporter/Producers

DOWNTOWN — Three Manhattan fire companies are slated to close under the mayor's latest budget proposal, including a pair of companies located near Ground Zero and one famously featured in the film "Ghostbusters."

The Manhattan companies — Engine 4 at 42 South St. in the Financial District, Ladder 8 at 14 North Moore St. in TriBeCa and Engine 26 at 220 W. 37th St. in the Garment District — are on a list of 20 citywide facing the ax.

The TriBeCa firehouse was used as the fictional headquarters of paranormal detectives in the hit 1984 film "Ghostbusters" and its 1989 sequel.

Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano testified earlier this week that the closures will "negatively affect response times to fires and life-threatening medical emergencies" in every community in the city, "not just those communities in the first-due areas of the companies to be closed."

Ladder 8 at 14 North Moore St. in TriBeCa, which is slated for closure by the city, was featured in the hit
Ladder 8 at 14 North Moore St. in TriBeCa, which is slated for closure by the city, was featured in the hit "Ghostbusters" films.
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Elected officials and firefighter union leaders blasted the decision Wednesday, only hours after rallying to save the companies prior to the specific locations being made public.

Uniformed Fire Officers Association president Al Hagan slammed the proposed cuts as "municipal treason," noting that emergency response times would be driven up by the closures, threatening lives.

"I believe that fire deaths will spike," he said.

Hagan was also surprised at the inclusion of Engine 26 on the list, given its proximity to Penn Station and ability to respond to incidents at the massive transit hub.

Only hours earlier, he and political leaders rallied outside of Engine 4 demanding the mayor restore funding for all fire companies facing the ax.

Noting the ongoing threat of terrorism in New York, especially in Lower Manhattan, they urged the Bloomberg administration to spare companies like Engine 4 that provide invaluable emergency services.

"This is going to be dangerous for the community," said local Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who was joined by Queens Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, chair of the Council's Fire and Criminal Justice Committee.

Engine 4, located just south of Wall Street, includes counter-terrorism equipment and decontamination services, which are necessary given the firehouse's proximity to possible terrorist targets.

Lower Manhattan remains at a particularly high risk for attack, advocates warned, with the neighborhood's population growing and the forthcoming 9/11 Memorial expected to draw millions of tourists to the area.

"It is disgraceful, a complete insult, that we have to be standing here," added Community Board 1 chairwoman Julie Menin. "We are the No. 1 terror target in the world."

Stephen Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, explained that any additional costs the city would incur through property damages and relocation services resulting from fires would far outweigh the funding needed if the cuts occur.

"The impact on the economy is real," he said.

The UFA says that FDNY emergencies are up 16 percent since 2001.

Advocates estimate the city would need to spend $40 million to $55 million to avoid the closures.

A mayoral spokesman said that budget cuts on both the state and federal levels have created a shortfall in the city, while the state is increasing costs for things like pensions and education.

"At some point you have to make decisions about resources you have available," said Marc LaVorgna, the mayor's deputy press secretary.

"Unfortunately we just don't have enough money. We would love to have a fire company on every block, but unfortunately that's just not a reality."

Sources stress the list, which is based on proximity to other companies and how busy they are, is just a draft and subject to change.

City Council Finance Chair Domenic Recchia said that now that the list is out, the council can examine exactly how the selections were made.

"Over the next several weeks, the City Council will thoroughly examine this list and its impact to ensure that we are protecting New Yorkers, not abandoning them," he said in a statement.

"Even in times of fiscal uncertainty, public safety needs to be our top priority."

Last year, 20 fire companies were spared the ax after the city restored $37 million in the budget to save the locations.