FDNY firefighters suspended after protesting vaccine mandate at New York state senator’s office, officials say
By Laura Studley, Artemis Moshtaghian and Susannah Cullinane, CNN
Six New York firefighters were suspended for four weeks without pay Friday following an incident between on-duty firefighters and an elected official’s staff, according to a statement from a New York City Fire Department spokesperson.
The firefighters drove a fire engine to New York state Senator Zellnor Myrie’s office in Brooklyn in protest of the city’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate, a spokesperson for the senator’s office told CNN Sunday.
Members of the fire department, the New York City Police Department and other city workers were required to show proof they’ve received at least one vaccine dose by 5 p.m. Friday or face unpaid leave, under a mandate implemented by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
De Blasio said Tuesday he was “disgusted” by Friday’s incident.
“These were members of the fire department in uniform who accosted fellow public servants who work for the state senator and mistreated them from everything we’ve heard, in uniform, on duty, acting on their own political beliefs,” de Blasio said speaking at a news conference.
“That’s unacceptable on so many levels, it’s almost impossible to cover all the ground it’s so bad.”
Speaking at the same news conference, FDNY Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said the firefighters were suspended for the maximum amount of time allowed by FDNY regulations — 28 days.
Nigro said the case is being investigated and penalties for their actions “can be anywhere from what they’ve already received, up to and including termination.”
The commissioner added that he wouldn’t speculate on the penalties until a full investigation has been conducted.
Myrie’s spokesperson Matt Baer said the firefighters went to the senator’s office, rang the doorbell and asked to discuss the vaccine mandate with the Brooklyn-based senator in what Baer described as a “cordial” interaction.
The firefighters asked Baer, who was in the office at the time, where the senator lives and then said the city would have blood on its hands come Monday because of the vaccine mandate.
Baer told CNN that Myrie has not been directly involved with the city-wide vaccine mandate. “We love the firefighters, we have no problem with them at all,” he said. “But this was inappropriate.”
The firefighters were from FDNY’s Ladder 113, which is based in Brooklyn.
Reduction in service possible following vaccination deadline
As of Wednesday, the FDNY was preparing for a 20% reduction in service beginning Monday, a source familiar with the ongoing situation told CNN.
On Thursday, members of the FDNY opposed to the mandate crowded outside Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s official residence, to demonstrate, with some attendees carrying signs that read, “Essential Workers aren’t Disposable Heros (sic),” “My Body My Choice,” and “#Natural Immunity.”
Unions for the fire and police departments have come out against the mandate, with Uniformed Fire Officers Association President Jim McCarthy describing a requirement that firefighters make a decision about the vaccine by Friday as “unconscionable.”
Vaccination rates for the FDNY, NYC Department of Sanitation and the NYC Department of Corrections increased by 3% from Saturday to Sunday night, according to vaccination data released by de Blasio’s office.
The percentage of FDNY employees who have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine increased to 80% from 78% on Saturday, according to the data.
As of Sunday night, there were still 22,800 unvaccinated individuals among NYC’s workforce, according to the data. This is in contrast to the 46,300 unvaccinated city employees reported by the city on Tuesday, October 19, the day before the vaccine mandate was announced by de Blasio’s office.
Based on the data provided throughout the weekend by the mayor’s office, from Saturday night to Sunday night at least 1,400 NYC employees received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
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CNN’s Brynn Gingras Dakin Andone and Taylor Romine contributed to this report.