UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan — With just one day left before they’re required to show proof of vaccination or lose their livelihoods, firefighters union members gathered outside of Gracie Mansion to protest.
While the mansion is the official home of Mayor Bill de Blasio, he wasn’t there during the mid-morning protest against his COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Instead, he was at City Hall trying to assure the city that it’s ready for potential problems that may arise if fire and police ranks are slashed by some 20%, as forecasted, due to vaccine non-compliance.
Andrew Ansbro, the president of UFA, the firefighters union, predicted that the situation will not be pretty if de Blasio doesn’t negotiate a testing option for his members.
“There’s gonna be a crisis in this city,” Ansbro said.
By Friday at 5 p.m., all municipal workers — including firefighters, police officers, EMTs, sanitation workers and others —have to show proof of vaccination, or be placed on unpaid leave starting Nov. 1.
The hundreds of protesters outside of the home where the mayor and his family live said that they’re not against COVID-19 vaccines, even though many people present indicated that they’re not going to be permitted to work on Monday, under the mandate. Instead, they said, they’re against the city requiring them to be vaccinated.
They also said that they resent that the mandate deadline did not provide much time for them to consider whether or not to get a shot. It was announced last week, 10 months after vaccines first became available for emergency use.
Jackie Martinez, the president of the United Women Firefighters affinity group, vocalized her concerns.
“Nine days is not enough time,” she said from a podium set up outside of Gracie Mansion, “for people who have mortgages, who have families, who have sick children to make a life-changing decision.”
Ansbro, the firefighters’ union president, also repeated a call to members that he’s made in recent days.
“Nov. 1, New York City firefighters will be at their firehouses,” he said. “If the mayor and the commissioner send us home, this will be on them.”
At least one protester talked with PIX11 News about the upcoming situation.
The man, who did not give his name, said that on Monday he’ll “show up to work ’til they kick me out.”
For his part, Mayor de Blasio on Thursday said that the process of dealing with non-compliant firefighters and other city workers was not his direct task.
“If folks show up who are not vaccinated, their supervisors will address that as with every agency,” the mayor said, “and that means, of course, they’re not getting paid at that point. The solution is just go get vaccinated, but that will be handled on a managerial level.”
The fire commissioner, Daniel Nigro, warned on Wednesday that 1 in 5 fire- and ambulance companies may be offline when the mandate goes into full effect on Monday.
His boss, Mayor de Blasio, said that he was confident that top municipal brass can handle whatever’s coming, even though firefighters union officials disagree.
“They have a variety of tools available,” he said. “Mandatory overtime, scheduling changes. There’s other options they can turn to, to address the situation.”