Hackensack City Council to Put Safety of Families and Firefighters at Risk
Public Safety Report Shows City Needs More Firefighters, Upwards of 20 Firefighters to Retire Over Three Years
HACKENSACK, NJ — Today, November 19, 2022, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) is highlighting that the Hackensack City Council has just hours left — until the end of today — to reconsider their unprecedented decision to turn down a nearly $2.4 million federal grant to hire 12 new firefighters, pay their salaries and benefits for three years, and cover their training costs.
The City Council plans to reject the federal grant that Gottheimer and the Hackensack Fire Department fought for and won. This risky decision could result in no new firefighters being hired using federal funds — hurting families’ safety and taxpayers’ pocketbooks.
According to a September 2022 report of the Hackensack Fire Department, public safety experts reviewed the recent development and growth in Hackensack, including high-rises, hospitals, and more, and stated: “Clearly the size and complexity of many of these development projects will prove challenging for the current public safety resources of the city and call for careful consideration for increasing the response capabilities of local fire department.”
Additionally, according to the Hackensack Fire Department, over the course of three years there will be upwards of 20 currently-employed firefighters who will be ready to retire.
“The Hackensack City Council has just hours left to accept this critical grant to ensure public safety. Their planned decision to turn down this investment comes at a time when the city is growing and public safety experts have recommended increases to the Hackensack force. The Fire Department has literally said they need to hire more firefighters to deal with upcoming retirements. God forbid anything happens to our firefighters or families because of the Council’s misguided decision to turn down recommended increases in the Hackensack force. It is very concerning that the Hackensack City Council is ignoring the recommendations of public safety experts and the Hackensack Fire Department,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), a member of the bipartisan Congressional Fire Services Caucus. “I will always fight for North Jersey and our first responders, and will do everything I can to support any revised grant applications. But, rejecting this secured grant could result in nothing for Hackensack families.”
Gottheimer spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives this week to urge the Hackensack City Council to accept the federal grant to hire new firefighters, which the Hackensack Fire Department and Gottheimer worked hard to claw back from Washington to Jersey.
Earlier this week, Gottheimer, the Hackensack Fire Department, local firefighters, union representatives from Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey (PFANJ) and Hackensack IAFF Locals 2081 and 3172, and Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco joined together at the Hackensack Fire Department to urge the Hackensack City Council to reconsider their decision. Despite multiple calls to accept the federal grant, the City Council currently plans to officially turn down this grant.
If the City turns down this federal grant, then the salaries of new firefighters will be paid for using local tax dollars. Gottheimer and the Hackensack Fire Department clawed these federal dollars from Washington back to North Jersey to better protect families and save taxpayers on their property tax bills.
The Hackensack City Council has until the end of today, Saturday, November 19, 2022 to accept the nearly $2.4 million federal grant.
The nearly $2.4 million Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant that Gottheimer helped claw back to North Jersey will:
- Help hire 12 new Hackensack firefighters and pay for their salaries and benefits for three years. Over the course of three years, there will be upwards of twenty firefighters who will retire and the Department averages four retiring firefighters a year.
- Ensure that Hackensack’s Fire Department grows as the city continues to develop with new high-rises, hospitals, and more. A September 2022 report called for the City to consider increasing the Fire Department’s response capabilities.
- Save taxpayers on their property tax bills. Instead of hiring 12 new firefighters on the City’s dime with local property taxes — something the City will have to do as the city expands and firefighters retire — these federal tax dollars can be used instead.
- Help the City of Hackensack save money by having more firefighters, rather than paying overtime.