NEW YORK (AP) - The city has cut back the number of firehouses
slated to be closed this week because of the huge budget gap, from
eight to six, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Monday.
"I am pleased to announce that because of the assistance we
have gotten today from Albany, and in the interests of exercising
the maximum caution allowable given our still precarious fiscal
situation, we now believe it is possible to reduce the number of
fire companies that are slated for closing," Bloomberg said in a
statement.
State legislators voted Monday to override Gov. George Pataki's
veto of a city aid bill, which will raise city sales and income
taxes.
The extra money allows the city to give Engine Co. 293, in
Woodhaven, Queens, and Squad 252, in Bushwick, Brooklyn, a reprieve
and maintain acceptable response times and a high standard of
hazardous-materials training, Bloomberg said.
"The response times in the area served by Engine 293 would have
risen above the citywide average, something we would like to
avoid," Bloomberg said. "By keeping Squad 252 in Brooklyn, we are
able to maintain the borough's hazmat capabilities."
The Uniformed Firefighters Association, the biggest firefighter
union, said it was pleased with Bloomberg's decision but would
continue fighting to keep the remaining six firehouses open.
"This is a small step in the right direction," said union
spokesman Tom Butler.
Bloomberg, seeking to close a $3.8 billion budget deficit, had
originally slated the eight firehouses to be closed by Friday. The
remaining six units are still scheduled to close that day, and
their firefighters will be transferred to some of the other more
than 470 firehouses in the city.
A Brooklyn judge was scheduled Tuesday to hear a lawsuit brought
by elected officials and civic groups attempting to block the
closure of the firehouses.
Butler said his union had collected 100,000 signatures for a
petition demanding the mayor reverse his decision to close any
firehouses. He said the union would present the petition to
Bloomberg later this week.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)