One year after Fire Station 7 closed its doors, weeds have sprouted on the lawn outside the building. Mayor Stephanie Miner's decision to close the fire house to save money continues to raise controversy. Firefighters Union President Paul Motondo has just issued a letter using statistics to dispute the administration's claim that closing Station 7 and other cost saving measures would not impact public safety.
"It's our belief we're jeopardizing the safety for economic reasons and I think the statistics speak for themselves." Motondo told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon Thursday.
Situated on East Fayette Street on Syracuse's near east side,Station 7 used to be one of the first responders to emergency calls in the downtown area and nearby neighborhoods including Syracuse University. Motondo says the number of responses to fire alarms hit a record 28,022 in 2013... and is on target to break 30,000 this year despite administration predictions that the volume of calls would go down. Earlier this year , the Fire Chief's office reported that the average response time, how long it takes for a fire apparatus to arrive at the scene of a 9-1-1 call, remains at just 3 minutes 52 seconds. Motondo calls that "misleading" because it doesn't take into account the time it takes for backup equipment to arrive from other fire stations. "The initial response is darn good but I'll tell you the back up to that initial response is not good."
T he fire fighters union predict s the situation will only become more crucial because of the changing face of downtown Syracuse. Downtown is being transformed into a residential community. Since the closing of station 7, 300 people have moved into newly renovated buildings, bringing the total to 3-thousand residents in an area that was once entirely office and retail space.
M otondo says it's time for the city to take a look at what's happened in the year since Station 7 closed and reassess the decision. He also says decision-makers should consider one other alarming statistic. Last year 9 people in Syracuse died of fire related injuries, compared to Chicago's 16 fire deaths, a city which is 18 times larger than Syracuse.
CNY Central notified Mayor Miner's office of this story earlier this week so that the administration could prepare a response to the claims put forth by the Fire Fighters Association. A spokesman for Mayor Miner says the administration has decided not to comment.