Tensions Rise with Next Phase of NYCs Vaccine Mandate
Six New York City firefighters were relieved of duty and face possible penalties after driving to the office of a state senator on Friday, confronting his staff members over the city’s vaccine mandate and asking for his home address.
The state senator, Zellnor Myrie, said that he was not present when they arrived at his office in the morning. But staff members told him that the firefighters, who were members of Ladder 113 in the Prospect Lefferts Gardens area of Brooklyn, said the mandate would result in a reduction of emergency services in the city — and that the officials responsible for it would “have blood on their hands.”
Mr. Myrie said his staff had been “rattled” by the experience and called the firefighter’s actions “highly inappropriate.” Daniel A. Nigro, the fire commissioner, said in a statement that the firefighters would face disciplinary action.
“This is a highly inappropriate act by on-duty members of this department who should only be concerned with responding to emergencies and helping New Yorkers and not harassing an elected official and his staff,” Daniel A. Nigro, the fire commissioner, said in a statement.
A union representing firefighters did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The confrontation was reflective of the tensions among some New Yorkers as the timetable for more than 300,000 police officers, firefighters, emergency medical service workers and other city employees to receive a first dose of a Covid vaccine neared its end. The official deadline was Friday at 5 p.m., but unvaccinated workers will be allowed to work until Monday before being placed on unpaid leave.
The police commissioner, Dermot F. Shea, said that thousands of people in his department had filed for exemptions, which can be filed on medical or religious grounds. He said that those who had done so by Wednesday would be allowed to work until their applications were reviewed, so long as they submitted to weekly testing.
The Police Department said its overall vaccination rate had reached 80 percent by Friday afternoon. That represents an increase from last week, when officials said that more than a quarter of the department’s employees were unvaccinated.
Upticks were smaller among employees of two other crucial departments, whose unvaccinated employees accounted for more than a quarter of their work forces. Officials said that about 69 percent of employees in the Fire Department and 67 percent in the Sanitation Department had received at least one dose by Friday afternoon.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he does not expect significant disruptions to government agencies or city life from potential staffing shortages on Monday. But fire officials are expecting the closure of up to 20 percent of fire stations; Joe Borelli, a Republican City Council member who represents part of Staten Island, wrote on Twitter on Friday that five stations in Manhattan and the Bronx had already been shuttered.
And New Yorkers in some parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn have begun to report delays in trash collection and garbage buildups in their neighborhoods that officials say may continue because of staffing gaps.
“We’re definitely seeing that problem in some parts of the city,” Mr. de Blasio said on Thursday, “and it’s unacceptable.”
Published at Fri, 29 Oct 2021 23:14:30 +0000