ALBANY — FDNY firefighters who previously worked in the department’s Emergency Medical Services bureau are calling on Gov. Hochul and lawmakers to allow time spent serving on an ambulance to count towards their current pension and retirement.
Hundreds of firefighters gathered at the state Capitol on Thursday to push for a measure that would enable them to receive credit for time served as an emergency medical technician or paramedic prior to becoming a firefighter.
“We’re not asking for a new benefit, we’re asking you to fix a mistake, to restore something that never should have been lost in the first place,” said Andrew Ansbro, president of the FDNY Uniformed Firefighters Association.
Currently, more than 1,400 firefighters who previously served as EMTs are impacted by the issue.
While EMS workers are part of the FDNY, they have a different pension system than firefighters. That means those who are promoted to firefighter can’t count their time serving as EMTs or paramedics towards their retirement or pension.
Hochul vetoed a bill approved by the Legislature last year that would have addressed the issue and reversed changes made in 2009 impacting pensions, arguing the measure should be folded into the state budget.
The state’s new fiscal year begins on Saturday, April 1, although Hochul and legislative leaders are gearing up for a lengthy budget season as changes to bail laws and housing are holding up negotiations.
The hopes of the FDNY Uniformed Firefighters Association were buoyed last month when Senate Democrats included a revamped version of the overhaul in their one-house budget proposal.
“These courageous men and women… risk their lives daily to protect our city and keep us safe,” Sen. Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan) told the crowd of cheering firefighters. “And yet they’re not receiving the recognition they deserve. It’s time to honor the life-saving work of NYC firefighters perform by counting the years they spent doing their job toward their pension.”
The long-sought measure has backing from both sides of the aisle. A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers joined the firefighters and union leaders Thursday to voice their support.
Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt (R-Lockport) was among those calling for the bill to included in the budget.
“It might take a couple of weeks before we have a budget… but when it’s there, this should be in there and we will have righted and corrected an injustice and a wrong on behalf of our heroes here in New York State,” Ortt said.
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