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Emotions Run High as Firefighter Layoffs Go Forward

Affected employees address the board.

The board voted 6-2 in favor of laying off six firefighters and one fire lieutenant, who will actually be demoted to firefighter.
The board voted 6-2 in favor of laying off six firefighters and one fire lieutenant, who will actually be demoted to firefighter.
As some residents applauded the board's decision to lay off six firefighters and  demote a lieutenant, those employees directly affected by the cuts asked the board to reconsider.

Brian Galazka, visibly shaken by the prospect of losing his job, attended the meeting with his pregnant wife. He told trustees he left a good career with the New York City Police Department to work for Garden City.

As a member of Headquarters Company for the past six years, he recalled his lengthy interview process when village administrator Bob Schoelle asked him whether or not he was committed to the village. Galazka said he completed a degree in fire arson investigation and went back to school to earn another degree in fire occupational safety and health administration.

"At that particular interview I was told 'you didn't complete your degree. If we're going to invest in you I want you to have a college degree not just a bunch of credits.' I walked out of this building. I went back to college," he said. "One semester I took 39 credits to complete another degree ... I came back for an additional interview three months later on the very day I graduated from the police academy, changed in the parking lot out of my New York City Police Department uniform trying to attempt to get a job here."

He was passed over at that time and wound up serving an additional two-and-a-half years with the city police department. Galazka left the force a decorated member of service before becoming a career firefighter for Garden City.

"We haven't done anything to this village to deserve this," he told trustees. "I offer you tonight a commitment ... I stand here on the chopping block. Do as you may. Vote your conscience. I left a very good career to invest my life, my responsibilities to your village and in return I'm standing here this evening hoping I will have a career in the future here with Garden City."

Frank Roca, a 23-member of the department, is the lieutenant being demoted to firefighter. He said he was at a loss for words.

"I take my job very seriously and I take the residents of this village very seriously. We go above and beyond our duties to help the residents of this village, as mayor Brudie can attest on Thanksgiving when we assisted him," he said. "I find it extremely disheartening to hear of the layoffs of myself and the six firefighters. My career I guess has peaked but these young gentlemen here who have families, kids, wives pregnant I am at a loss for words of how they must feel because I know how I feel."

Reading a board resolution at the start of the meeting, deputy mayor John Watras stated that after review of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) report and through consultation with the fire chiefs, the board determined the fire department could operate with four lieutenants and 18 firefighters, resulting in "considerable economic savings" to the village.

The professional firefighters have maintained that inaccuracies exist within the ICMA report and staffing changes are being made based on those inaccuracies.

Trustees Dennis Donnelly, Nick Episcopia, Laurence Quinn, Brian Daughney and John DeMaro, along with deputy mayor Watras, voted in favor of the layoffs while mayor Don Brudie and trustee Andrew Cavanaugh opposed the cuts.

Village counsel Gary Fishberg said the move will save the village $950,000 per year, citing the cost per firefighter is roughly $154,000 per year.

Chief Charles Cavarra also ensured residents that despite "all these uncomfortable situations" the chiefs did come up with a response matrix to keep the outlying firehouses manned 24/7 and one fire lieutenant for the duration.

"I am planning on keeping them open," he said.
alex stewart February 08, 2013 at 01:45 PM
As a garden city resident, I am at a complete loss for words how such an important decision affecting the lives and safety of every child, women, and man in the village could be made in such an unprofessional, arbitrary, and caprisious manner! This decision needs to be reversed and the trust and respect between the village government, civil servents, and residents needs to be restored! I hope mayor's vision of reversal of the decision is made quick after the majority voice is heard. The fabric of what makes the village an exceptional place to live, work, and raise a family is being dismantelled brick by brick a small number of those who are in control of the village. If the board of trustee's and we as residents let this stand in treating the firefighters and their families this way, what is to be expected in how they serve the village? In the upcomming village elections, write in canidates should be added replacing all those who voted yes and the decision should be reversed at the first board meeting following the elections.
Steve F February 08, 2013 at 03:39 PM
As a Garden City resident I am thankful that the board of trustees is finally making the hard decisions needed to get this village back to fiscal responsibility. Garden City is one of 2 neighborhoods on LI with a paid fire department in place. It's not needed. Just ask the paid Garden City Firemen who live in all volunteer villages.
thomas stoerger February 08, 2013 at 04:11 PM
Yes Steve your village and long beach are the only two and yes we live in communities with all volunteers that are unable to provide the kind of response that the residents are accustomed to by your combination dept. Service type calls for assistance are not answered by a majority of those
Jack O'Niel February 08, 2013 at 04:22 PM
Hmm, maybe the union negotiator could learn a lesson from this.
Bill Sweeney February 08, 2013 at 04:34 PM
There are more ways to deal with it than this. LIke I said, let's see if our taxes go down or even don't go up as much...but of course, that's something much easier to sell. Look, you're taxes are only going up 7% this year...would have been 7.15% without firing the FD.

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