I am a former Yonkers Fire Captain who is retired because of a job-related disability. Back in September of 2001, as a newly promoted fire lieutenant, I was sent by the Yonkers Fire Department to the FDNY‘s Officer Training Academy in New York City. All Yonkers Firefighters who get promoted to officer get sent to this school. Yes, I was on duty and in NYC with the FDNY on 9/11/2001. I was there for all of it. To make a long story short, I like so many others who were at Ground Zero am battling cancer. Stage 4 cancer. Battling for my life. Unfortunately, I now have another battle to face.
I am currently going through all of my past medical records and disability retirement papers, and it feels like I’m using a rusty nail to open up an old wound. Tears are welling up upon the realization of how much I have been through. It is only by the grace of God that I am still walking this earth today. Why do I have to do this unpleasant chore and bring up the ghosts of 9/11 and the dark cloud of cancer that envelops my life?? To get ready to go to court that’s why! It seems that Mayor Spano, Deputy Mayor Sue Gerry, and all the others in that circus that is called Yonkers City Hall have decided to try to save a buck. Yep, save a buck by attempting to take away almost half of the disability pay that I get from the city. This pay, required by law, is paid by the City of Yonkers to firefighters who were injured/disabled in the line of duty and can no longer work. These men who have sacrificed their health protecting the lives and property of the fine citizens of the City of Yonkers. These men are the best of the best of us — the ones who are first to jump on that rig. The ones who crawl deepest into the heat and smoke — the bravest of the brave who risked the most; and lost. Men who went above the fire in valiant, desperate attempts to save lives, and ultimately having to jump out of a third floor window while their bodies were burning! Yep, they are trying to save a buck off the families of those men who survived that night but will never be the same again. Who the hell would try to take away from those who already lost so much??? Mayor Spano would that’s who!!! He might even try to recoup the monies paid in the past years to these men. Amounts that would devastate them and their families.
If I didn’t know better, I would think that this is a desperate, deliberate attempt on behalf of the mayor to stick it to the Yonkers Firefighters, Fire Officers, and disabled retirees. Our unity, devotion, and unwillingness to easily give up what we fought so hard to gain has been a thorn in his side. The fact that he is now coming after our injured and disabled is pathetic and an outrage! The mayor has deemed fit that because of a perceived “grey area” in the language of 207-a Disability Law that he can take away that portion of the pay that these men receive. This disability pay has been paid for decades and decided upon by a court of law (Smerek v Yonkers) – a lawsuit that the city lost and never appealed – a judge’s determination that has been followed for nearly four decades. I will use the words of the Honorable Judge Anthony Ferraro who presided over that very case, from his summary:
“The Court appreciates the financial plight of the City of Yonkers, but economies should not be practiced at the expense of devoted men who render valiant service at the risk of their very lives.”
See you in court Mr. Mayor! I have all my records and evidence ready. See you in the court of public opinion, too! WE WILL NEVER FORGET WHAT YOU TRIED TO DO HERE. It’s not legal, but more importantly, IT’S NOT RIGHT. I wonder how you can even sleep at night, but then again you are a politician; a Yonkers politician at that.