2017-04-21 / Top Stories

Official Point Of View

By Councilman Eric Ulrich

When Superstorm Sandy devastated our community, a number of volunteer emergency response teams stepped up to the plate to lend a helping hand. In my district, an area that was hit especially hard, I witnessed these everyday heroes risk their lives battling fires and raging floods. Many of these volunteer groups were themselves victims of the storm. The Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department, the Point Breeze Volunteer Fire Department, the Rockaway Point Volunteer Fire Department and Roxbury Volunteer Emergency Medical Services sustained millions in damages collectively. More than four years later, they are still recovering from their losses.

There is no doubt that our volunteer firefighters, auxiliary police officers and emergency medical services volunteers play a vital role in keeping our communities safe. These brave men and women put their own lives at risk on a daily basis, but sadly, their valuable service is often underappreciated. They never see a dime for their hard work and do not receive any City benefits other than worker’s compensation. It is important that we do more to acknowledge all that they do.

This week, I introduced a new bill, Intro 1527-2017, which would establish a discounted annual membership fee at Parks Department recreation centers for volunteer firefighters, auxiliary police officers and emergency medical services volunteers. It is the very least we can do to express our gratitude for their tireless commitment to serve our communities.

We must remember – our volunteers are not just keeping us safe – they are also saving taxpayers a ton of money. New York City is home to 36 volunteer emergency agencies – 20 of which are located in Queens alone. Across the State, volunteer fire departments save New Yorkers a total of $9.3 billion. This nearly $10-billion figure does not include the additional savings of auxiliary police officers and EMS volunteers.

With this new bill, I hope to encourage our volunteers to take advantage of the many facilities offered at Parks Department recreation centers – but more importantly, I hope it serves as the crucial first step in officially acknowledging our unsung heroes.

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