Scores of angry firefighters and their supporters gathered outside Gracie Mansion in Manhattan Thursday to protest Mayor Bill de Blasio’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Some of the protesters clutched anti-Biden signs and flags. One supporter, . Scott LoBaido, dumped a can of trash over the Gracie Mansion fence to protest the mayor’s mandate.
“These people are the people who make this city run and without these people this city is screwed,” said LoBaido, who called himself a patriot and an artist.
Labor leaders for the FDNY announced that thousands of firefighters and supporters were expected to participate in the demonstration outside Gracie Mansion.
De Blasio, however, said he expected a “surge of vaccinations” before Friday’s deadline, and department heads have spent months preparing for possible staffing shortages.
“Every one of the commissioners has been absolutely confident that they can make the adjustments,” de Blasio said Wednesday during his daily press briefing. “And every one of the commissioners has adamantly wanted us to move forward with the vaccine mandate. So I feel ready.”
De Blasio told city employees to submit proof of COVID-19 vaccination by 5 p.m. Friday. Those who fail to provide proof will be but on unpaid leave Monday. The city agreed Wednesday to provide health care benefits to firefighters put on unpaid leave for at least 30 days, the union officials said.
The New York City Police Benevolent Association _ the union that represents thousands of police officer _ and FDNY union officials called on the city to continue weekly testing for employees who are opposed to the COVID-19 vaccination. It was grossly unfair for the mayor to give their members just nine days to decide if they want to retire or get the shots, the union officials said.
“This not only violates police officers’ rights — it will inevitably result in fewer cops available to protect our city,” PBA President Patrick Lynch said.
Large numbers of firefighters will retire if forced to get the first dose of the vaccine by Friday, according to the FDNY union leaders.
“I don’t think the mayor understands what is going to happen on Nov. 1,” FDNY Firefighters Association president Andrew Ansbro said during a news conference in Manhattan. “There is going to be a catastrophic staffing shortage if 3,500 firefighters that are currently unvaccinated are told not to go to work.”
FDNY Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said the department may have to close as many as 20% of fire companies on Monday and put 20% fewer ambulances on the road because of staffing shortages.