As firefighter response times continue to go up, Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta is threatening to make fire captains pay the price if the times don’t go down, and he has the full backing of Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Response times have increased for the ninth month in a row, and NY1 has learned the fire commissioner has directed commanders to ask company captains to explain the increase. Sources say Scoppetta has threatened that if response times don’t go down, captains could be reassigned.
Uniformed Fire Officers Association President Peter Gorman says he won’t let his members be re-assigned without a fight. In a statement, Gorman said: “We will not allow this union or our members to become scapegoats for the failed policies of the Scoppetta administration.”
In a statement, a Fire Department spokesman had this to say: “This is an accountability issue. While response times have risen for many engine companies, more than 25 percent have experienced no change, and some have even shown improvement. The department is simply asking why this is the case.”
A day after NY1 first reported about Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta’s threat to reassign fire captains if response times don’t go down, his boss, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, offered all-out support Monday, even as the department’s top uniformed officer tried to calm things down a bit. NY1’s Amanda Farinacci filed this report.
As we first reported Sunday, sources tell NY1 that Mayor Bloomberg and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta are so serious about cutting fire response times that they’ve threatened to reassign fire captains if the numbers don’t go down.
On Monday, the mayor held his ground, promising that is going to happen.
“The [response times] jumped up for reasons that cannot be explained by weather or any other physical pattern,” said Bloomberg. “The only thing that I know of that changed was that one or two of the unions wrote a letter to their members saying, ‘Don’t pay any attention to what the officers and the commissioner say – do something different.’ That’s not tolerable. The difference isn’t running our city, the commissioner and the chiefs are running the Fire Department, and they will set the standards."
At the heart of the tough talk is a trend toward increased response times over the past nine months. Compare May 2004 to May 2005 and they’re up an average 20 seconds.
Scoppetta says the unions are getting back at him for disciplining a truck driver who slammed into a car last year, killing a civilian.
The unions deny that, claiming they are simply telling their members to follow department traffic regulations, which require rigs to slow down before proceeding through a red light or stop sign.
The head of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association says he doesn’t care what the fire commissioner or the mayor have to say about response time and accountability – he’s going to continue to tell his members to follow the department’s own regulations.
“The mayor’s not in the front seat of a fire truck at 3:00 in the morning when it’s racing down the streets. My members are, firefighters are, and we’re going to make sure our fire trucks get there quickly, safely and efficiently,” said UFOA President Peter Gorman. “I’ll say that till the cows come home.”
And while Gorman and the mayor continue their rhetoric, FDNY Chief of Department Peter Hayden seemed to be trying to put out some of the flames from NY1’s story.
“We’ve had no substantive discussions about transferring any company commander,” said Hayden. “I think once we bring to the attention of the company commanders the increased response times, they will be all on board and pay attention to that and get it down.”
The FDNY has conducted interviews with division chiefs and identified several companies where the increase is especially high. FDNY brass is hoping the opened communication will bring lowered response times, without having heads roll. (from NY1.com)