315 EXTRA FIREFIGHTERS ADD TO FDNY $$ CRISIS
By REUVEN BLAU, NY Post
The lights are still on at four city firehouses that were slated for nighttime closure beginning last month, The Post has learned.
The FDNY has been unable to mothball four fire companies - a cutback that brass trumpeted last month as a $9 million cost-saving measure - because the agency has 315 firefighters too many, officials admitted.
"We have excess personnel," said Fire Department spokesman Frank Gribbon. "If each night we have excess firefighters, we are going to utilize them to staff the four companies . . . We can't tell firemen, 'We have enough guys tonight, you come in tomorrow.' "
The FDNY's uniformed headcount swelled to 11,585 in 2008, up 6 percent from the 10,881 on the payroll in 2003, according to the Independent Budget Office.
Ladder 53 on City Island in The Bronx - one of the companies facing cutbacks - has been fully staffed every night since the ax was scheduled to fall Jan. 17.
The others - Engine 4 in lower Manhattan, Engine 161 in Staten Island and Engine 271 in Brooklyn - have been intermittently pared back, according to firefighters at each location.
On Thursday, when The Post visited each firehouse, they were all fully staffed and functional. Each company was supposed to shut down from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m.
Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said the closures would save an expected $8.9 million.
"Eventually in the coming months, staffing will go down, and the night closures will take full effect," Gribbon said.