Written by Dave Gil de Rubio, email@example.com Friday, 15 February 2013 00:00
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.
Friday, 24 October 2014 00:00
The Garden City Chamber of Commerce is gearing up for the 35th annual Fall Festival Street Fair set for Saturday, Oct. 25 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Seventh Street. The chamber thanks the Garden City Hotel which will serve as the primary event sponsor.
JGS entertainment will return for the 16th year as master ceremonies providing music and vocals. There will be plenty of activities for the kids. Included will be the return of the two trackless trains carrying children 12 years of age and younger up and down Seventh Street sponsored by Coach Realtors and Garden City Teachers Association. There will be the traditional inflatable bouncy house sponsored by SMPL Technologies and the ever-popular money cube sponsored by Calogero’s and Leo’s. The Garden City Parks and Recreation Department will have giveaways and temporary tattoos.
Thursday, 23 October 2014 00:00
Ever since the Garden City School District passed a $36.8 million School Investment Bond back in 2009, the upgrades throughout the district have been quite substantial. And while most of it has gone towards infrastructure, external visible improvements have rightfully been a source of pride for the board, which has taken to conducting tours at the different schools preceding the monthly public meetings that are normally held at Garden City High School. On the night of the school board meeting held on Tuesday, Oct. 14 at the Homestead Building, the school board, administration and Superintendent Dr. Robert Feirsen went on a guided tour of the building by Homestead Principal Dr. Suzanne Viscovich.
Feirsen described the tour as a new tradition started last year where administration travels around each of the district’s school buildings in the Fall to observe its current offerings and recent upgrades.
Thursday, 23 October 2014 09:43
With the fall sports season upon us, the department of recreation and parks would like to remind all residents that pets are not allowed in any neighborhood parks, Community Park, or St. Paul’s fields. Non compliance with this rule will result in the issuance of appearance tickets.
Register For The Online Registration Option
Garden City’s Department of Recreation and Parks will offer the option of online registration with credit card payment beginning with its winter programs in early December.
In order for a family to use the online registration option, the family will first need to visit the recreation and parks office at 108 Rockaway Ave. to verify residency and their family information and receive their password. A list of instructions as to how to use the website will be included.
Thursday, 09 October 2014 09:22
Prior to the start of high school running season, Garden City’s Physical Therapy Options (PTO) had an opportunity to provide a presentation to members of Sacred Heart Academy’s cross country team. Team members gathered at Garden City’s New York Running Company to learn strategies and tips for a successful fall season.
PTO staff members Dr. Meghan Goetz, Doctor of Physical Therapy, and PTO Aide Mike Murphy discussed the importance of stretching to prevent injury and provided strategies and tips for success for the high school runner.