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Probationary firefighter's death spotlights FDNY terminations


This story has been updated to include a statement from the FDNY.

As part of the budget cuts imposed by Mayor Eric Adams in the last two years, the FDNY has trimmed its overtime spending, instituted a partial hiring freeze and, most drastically, terminated employees whose health issues preclude them from working in the field. 

Some of the cuts have been rolled back but with the death of former probationary firefighter Derek Floyd last month, a spotlight was shined on the effects of terminations on firefighters and their families. 

Floyd, a former Marine, had worked for more than four years in the FDNY’s chaplaincy office on a light duty detail after he was forced to withdraw from the fire academy because of a medical issue. At only 36 years old, he suffered a heart attack in April, leaving behind his wife and two children who, because Floyd was terminated before his fifth year of service, won’t have access to the death benefits available to families of fallen firefighters.  

At least nine other probationary firefighters working on light duty were fired alongside Floyd in November, according to the Uniformed Firefighters Association. The union’s president, Andrew Ansbro, said it was absurd for the FDNY to be cutting members when the department is “extremely understaffed.” 

“How can you cut the number of people that are doing the jobs and also cut the overtime at the same time,” the union leader said. “Either that's bad management or it's an admission that you’ve been paying people for work that didn’t need done. And the reality is that they need the work done.” 

He said probationary firefighters are placed on light duty if they are injured while off-duty or are found during their time in the fire academy to have a preexisting condition that prevents them from working in the field. Members on light duty are typically given desk jobs. 

“As someone who served our country, he should’ve been awarded more time, a little more grace,” the Ansbro said. The UFA has set up a Gofundme for Floyd’s family and the Tunnels to Towers Foundation is also providing his family with financial support.

‘On the EMS side it’s horrendous’ 

When cuts to light duty were imposed last year, Ansbro feared that the FDNY would force older firefighters working on light duty, many of whom are suffering from 9/11-related illnesses, into early retirement. With the rollback by the Adams administration of some cuts, those fears have been assuaged Ansbro said. But other uniformed members in the FDNY have not been spared. 

At least a dozen EMTs and paramedics have been “medically separated” from the department since Adams took office, according to leadership of District Council 37’s Local 2507, which represents the EMS workers in the FDNY. 

An FDNY spokesperson disputed the union's figure, saying that just six members of FDNY EMS have been medically separated from the department since May 2022.

Medical separation is used for members of FDNY EMS because, unlike firefighters, the workers don’t have unlimited sick leave. If a member is injured on duty, they have a year after their sick leave runs out to either return to full duty, apply for disability benefits or be medically separated from the department and lose out on salary and benefits.  

“On the EMS side it’s horrendous,” said Gary Smiley, Local 2507's World Trade Center liason who advocates for members with illnesses. “We have seen this now for several years. They go from being on sick leave to getting their salary taken away.”  

Smiley said those former members often suffer from debilitating cancers and he knows of one recently medically separated individual who uses a wheelchair and supplemental oxygen. Medically separated members must file with New York City Employees' Retirement System for disability benefits —which amount to 75 percent of salary — that are not always easy to get, Smiley added. 

Oren Barzilay, the president of Local 2507, said that the local has worked in the past to postpone the medical separations and that NYCERS has been more approving of former members’ disability claims in recent months.  

“These [health] problems have occurred to them due to this job,” Barzilay said. “It is unfortunate and very painstaking to hear that people are permanently disabled and are losing their job with no benefits made available to them.”  

The FDNY spokesperson said the department paid for Floyd's funeral and started a scholarship fund for his children. "We are heartbroken over the passing of former Probationary Firefighter Derek Floyd, and are exploring all financial, legal and legislative options to help his family and ensure they have the support they need during this time," the spokesperson said in a statement.

One way to help these disabled members would be to increase sick-leave time for EMTs and paramedics through collective bargaining, Barzilay said. The two EMS unions, however, have yet to meet with the city’s office of labor relations to start discussing a new deal. 

Ansbro said his union is exploring legislation on the state level that would ensure firefighters who pass away before their fifth year can count their service in other city jobs or in the military towards their pension so that the families they leave behind can get some benefits.  

“We’re doing whatever we can to raise money for the family,” Ansbro said of Floyd’s widowed wife and children. “This is an issue with the pension law that really should be fixed."


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2 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here


    I hope especially after this this bill gets passed. The FF wore two uniforms of honor.One for the country & the second for NYC & the greatest fire department in the world.

    Friday, May 10 Report this

  • royc2551

    The statement by the FDNY Spokesperson leads one to believe that they (the FDNY) covered the full cost. What I would like to know form the FDNY Spokesperson is, how much did the FDNY pay. While I can't confirm this information it is my understanding that the funeral cost was $15,000 and that Chappy's Funeral Home covered $13,000 of that. This also didn't come about because of anyone at FDNY Headquarters. I'm not going to mention the name of the person who helped make this happen, but I will send out a big thank you to him for always being there to help.

    Monday, May 13 Report this