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Five-Alarm Response

Emotions ignite after

trustees vote for layoffs

Emotions remain high nearly a week after a raucous Garden City village board meeting at which trustees voted to lay off six firefighters and demote one officer. With the standing-room-only crowd of residents and firefighter families spilling into the hallway of village hall at the Thursday evening meeting, the board voted 6-2 to make the cuts, in an effort to save more than $900,000.

“The model we need is to have eight [firefighters] during the day, eight during the night, and a vacation relief guy for nights and days, plus three on disability. That’s 21, and now we have 26 plus five,” Deputy Mayor/Fire Commissioner John Watras told the board. “We’re actually going down to 21 and four, but we really have 18 firefighters that are available to show up.”

In other words, Watras said the fire department could operate with four lieutenants and 18 firefighters. For nearly a century, volunteers have augmented the professional staff. This makes the Village of Garden City, along with the city of Long Beach, the only two Long Island communities to carry a hybrid department of paid and volunteer firefighters.

“My opposition to the layoffs of six firefighters is no secret,” said Mayor Donald Brudie, who was joined by Trustee Andrew Cavanaugh in voting against the resolution. “As mayor, I am opposed to reducing the staff of a department charged with life-saving and property-protection responsibilities. The budget process has just begun and the board is taking these steps without first exploring reductions in other non-life-threatening areas where expenditure reductions would not have a draconian impact on our residents, their property and their safety.”

Before the vote, public comment brought a veritable conga line of speakers, most of whom spoke passionately against the layoffs, expressing emotions ranging from surprise and incredulousness to desperation and anger, particularly at the fact that news of this motion had allegedly been released just days before. Longtime resident Tim Gaynor was especially incensed.

“I work in labor relations so I have a little bit of a different take in terms of how stuff is done,” Gaynor said. “I don’t see the transparency of [this process]. The first I heard of this was through an email last night from one of your paid firefighters. I had no knowledge of this whatsoever, and I think that’s kind of deceiving. I was actually in support of the closing of firehouses, but I didn’t think there would be an impact on the paid guys. If people get laid off, you will not hear the last of me.”

Firehouse closings were among the recommendations in a report issued this past summer by the International/City County Management Association (ICMA). Commissioned by the Village Board, the report proposed eliminating nighttime staff at the Edgemere Road and Clinton Road satellite stations and changing dispatch calls from being directly placed to the three Garden City firehouses to the Firecom dispatcher as a means of reducing response times. Residents recoiled at the proposals.

Watras said he used the ICMA report as well as meetings with fire chiefs within the department to arrive at the plan to lay off six firemen and demote one lieutenant to the rank of firefighter.

While many residents expressed concerns that the cuts would compromise safety, Trustees John DeMaro, Nicholas Episcopia, Dennis Donnelly, Brian Daughney, John Watras and Laurence J. Quinn were not convinced, and voted for the motion.

“Fifteen years ago we had the same number of people arriving at your fire as 10 years ago, five years ago, last year and a year from now,” said Quinn. “The actual number of paid firefighters under [this] plan is exactly the same. We’re not closing firehouses. We’re going to have the same guys show up.”

“And we’ll probably have more [firefighters on the scene] because the volunteers get there quicker,” added Daughney.

The effective date of the changes has not been set.

At the meeting, Brudie pointed out that collective bargaining isn’t over, and a reversal of the resolution is still possible. But this was little consolation to firefighter family members who left the boardroom in tears with children in tow. At press time, Village Administrator Robert Schoelle responded via email that the village had not yet received the actual names of the six laid off firefighters from the Civil Service Commission and a call to Chief Charles Cavarra was not returned.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Lieutenant Frank Roca, a 23-year member of the Garden City Fire Department whose rank will be reduced to firefighter as part of the resolution.

“My heart goes out to these guys,” he said outside of the boardroom after the vote. “These guys left good jobs [to become Garden City firefighters]…But right now, it was just thrown away.”

The next meeting of the board is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 19 at 8 p.m.

News

Ethan Irwin to vie for Kemp Hannon's Senate seat

With just under six months until Election Day on Nov. 9, a Democratic challenger has announced his bid for the New York State Senate’s sixth district seat—covering Garden City, Farmingdale, East Meadow, Levittown, Hicksville, Bethpage, and Island Trees—currently occupied by state Sen. Kemp Hannon.

Ethan Irwin, an attorney from Levittown, has already received the endorsement of Nassau County Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs. On June 30, Irwin officially opened his campaign headquarters at Kennedy Memorial Park in the Village of Hempstead.

Village hosts internship pilot program

The Village of Garden City is currently hosting a pilot internship program this summer for four Adelphi University students. The eight-to-10-week test run is also the first time the school has partnered with a municipality, according to its Center for Career Services.

Planning started in May when Mayor John Watras approached Village Administrator Ralph Suozzi about the possibility of hiring interns during July and August. Suozzi, who said he had student interns at his last job, said the program helps provide college students with experience in exchange for a new perspective for village officials.


Sports

Ron Darling and Darryl Strawberry

appear at Citibank

New York Mets fans haven’t had too much to be excited about this season. The team is currently under .500 and struggling to stay in the postseason race. So when two former Mets who played on the magical 1986 World Series championship team came to Garden City last Friday, fans had the opportunity to relive the memories and smile.

As part of the Meet Mr. Met Tour, former Mets Ron Darling and Darryl Strawberry joined the Mets mascot, Mr. Met, at Citibank on Franklin Avenue for a meet and greet event.

Summer Concert Schedule

Garden City’s Department of Recreation and Parks is happy to announce the schedule of its concert series “Summer Music on the Village Green.” The concert series will be held at the gazebo on the corner of Stewart and Hilton Avenues. Concerts are held on Thursdays beginning at 7:15 pm. The schedule is as follows:

July 24    Six Gun

July 31     Tangerine

August 7    The Terry Nova Little Big Band

August 14    Vintage Bliss

To register for any of the above programs for find out further information about openings, please visit www.gardencityrecreation.org for an application or the recreation office at 108 Rockaway Ave.


Calendar

Summer Concert: Tangerine

Thursday, July 31

Friday Night Promenade Continues

Friday, August 1

Marvelous Movie Matinee

Monday, August 4



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com