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The bill also authorizes not more than $1 million for the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating to undertake a study of the means by which port authorities provide protection against damage due to fires, explosions, natural disasters, or other serious accidents or casualties. The study must be completed within one year of the effective date of the bill, and must include identification of port authority requirements to assure adequate protection, and an analysis of the availability of funds to port authorities to provide such protection. The Secretary shall transmit to the Congress a written report on the study which shall include any recommendations for legislative or other action that the Secretary may consider necessary to enable port authorities to provide the protection required.
The Department of Transportation opposes the enactment of H.R. 362 for the reasons discussed herein.
Initially, we question whether the problem of port protection is of sufficient magnitude to justify the expenditure of funds in the amounts that would be required to provide grants and administer the grant program. For example, the bill states that grants made available to port authorities are to be used to supplement, and not supplant, local funding for port protection. Enforcing this provision alone would require the continous expenditure of resources to provide constant supervision of all projects even after grants are awarded.
Additionally, the bill provides that grants may be used to "obtain, improve, or maintain port safety equipment or facilities, (and] to train or employ port safety personnel." These are clearly continuing type activities which will require constant funding. Thus, once a grant is provided there will be pressure for its continuation with the likely consequence of Federal involvement in a traditionally local concern.
With respect to a study of each of the Nation's port authorities in terms of their ability to respond to casualties, we are of the opinion that the plan as set forth in this bill suffers serious defects. "Port authorities” and “public ports” are defined in such inclusive terms as to make literally hundreds of facilities subject to study. Likewise, the type of "casualties” to be addressed by the studies include almost every possible damage causing incident, including natural disasters, intentional acts, and accidents.
Studies of the scope envisioned by the bill would require the expenditure of substantial resources, well in excess of the $1 million cost limitation set by the bill. We are not convinced that a study focusing primarily on port protection will provide benefits to the Nation and our national transportation system commensurate with its cost. Also, it would be impossible to conduct within a year a meaningful study of all the ports within the purview of the bill. It has been estimated that it would take more than 1 year and more than $1 million to adequately study the port systems associated with one major port city such as New York or Los Angeles.
The Office of Management and Budget advises that from the standpoint of the Administration's program, there is no objection to the submission of this report to the Committee. Sincerely,
John G. WOFFORD (for Linda Heller Kamm.)
Mr. BIAGGI. Our first witness this morning was scheduled to be the mayor of the city of New York, Abraham Beame. He called me last night, and I knew exactly why he called. I knew he could not be here because I knew he would respond to the funeral services for Officer Mitchell who was killed on the line of duty just a few days ago.
He expressed his sincere regrets but did say he would send his deputy mayor, Stanley Friedman, together with Fire Commissioner John O'Hagen, who will be the first two witnesses.
First, I would like to welcome both of my old friends. I am glad to see you here.
But I would like to take this time out, John, to congratulate you and your men for a great job done on the blackout. I congratulate you on your leadership as a fire commissioner.
STATEMENT OF HON. STANLEY M. FRIEDMAN, DEPUTY MAYOR,
CITY OF NEW YORK, ACCOMPANIED BY JOHN T. O'HAGEN, FIRE COMMISSIONER AND CHIEF OF DEPARTMENT, CITY OF NEW YORK
Mr. O'HAGEN. We are very proud of our men, Mario. I think that once again they were able to show the dedication they have and the professionalism they have in protecting the city of New York. And we are very proud of them.
Mr. BIAGGI. I would like to say there is no fire department better in the world, but we have a representative here from California. I would like to say they are the best, but I would be sort of compromising.
But being a good host, I will say there is none better.
But we welcome you, John, and you, Stanley. We are delighted to have you here.
Mr. FRIEDMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First, as you indicated, I do want to apologize for the mayor's absence. But, as you indicated, he is attending a funeral in Upper Manhattan, which is an 11 o'clock funeral, for Police Officer Mitchell.
Mr. Biaggi. I think from my own perspective, if you will, I think it is important that he be there. It is important for the police department and important for the people of the city of New York to recognize the sacrifice of a police officer.
And I also share his same confidence in your ability to tell the mayor's story.
Mr. FRIEDMAN. Thank you.
To my right, as you indicated, is the fire commissioner, John O'Hagen, whom we all know.
And without regard for California or any other State, we feel that we do have probably some of the world's foremost experts in the field of firefighting and fire safety. An we hope that the background of facts and figures that the fire commissioner will give after the mayor's testimony will be examined carefully and results will be shown.
We would like to thank the subcommittee for your efforts to focus the attention of the Congress on the need to maintain adequate marine fire protection for the Nation's ports.
Actually, as I was reading the several-paged testimony that we have, I came to the conclusion that there is no need to testify because, Congressman Biaggi, as you read your opening remarks, you have probably-well, not probably, but without question you have made all the arguments and all the reasons why we should not delay on this legislation and why H.R. 362 should be adopted so that we can improve the quality of firefighting and safety and do away with the "illusion" and make it reality.
To Congressman Patterson we want to take this opportunity to publicly thank you on behalf of the city for the courageous stand you have taken in the Congress over the last several years while New York City was in the midst of the depths of the fiscal crisis, and we did not have too many friends at the outset. But you
did stand up and you were re-elected, so I guess it did not hurt being a friend of New York.
you are here.
Mr. PATTERSON. I think the people of California recognizedwell, my mail was 100 to 1 against the New York City aid, but I was on the subcommittee when that issue came up and I was the strongest supporter of anyone, I think, for aid to New York City. I could expound on the reasons why, but will not. I did the right thing and I did get re-elected, so I think that speaks for itself.
Mr. FRIEDMAN. Well, again, we want to thank you. We hope you enjoy your stay here. And we will try to keep the lights on as long as
The city of New York now provides full firefighting services for the entire Port of New York, including fireboat assistance to New Jersey waterfront communities when requested.
Last year, the New York City Fire Department responded to nearly 300 fires and emergencies involving piers, shipyards, and vessels in the Port of New York.
Despite reductions forced by the city's fiscal crisis, we have continued this service to protect the safety of our citizens and of everyone who uses the Nation's busiest harbor.
For the past several years, we have advocated that this costly but vital service should be funded more broadly, both to ease the burden on our city budget and to improve the harbor's total firefighting and fire prevention capacity.
This legislation, H.R. 362, cosponsored by Congressman Biaggi, marks a concrete step towards achievement of that goal.
Once again, Congressman Biaggi is in the front, fighting for legislation to make New York City a better and a safer place to live, to play, and to work in.
The major's staff has worked with Commissioner O'Hagen's aides in analyzing the bill and in preparing proposed revisions which would make this aid program more effective for the New York Harbor and
Our first concern is with the definition of local or State agencies eligible to receive Federal assistance for marine firefighting coverage. As you are aware, section 301 of the bill provides that this aid could be made available to “any port authority administering the operations of any public port in the United States.
While this definition is basically sound, it does not address the special circumstances which apply in New York City and in our ports.
Although the bi-State Port Authority of New York and New Jersey operates many of the harbor's major facilities, the city's Department of Ports and Terminals administers several cargo facilities on our side of the port. In addition, the New York City Department of Marine and Aviation has jurisdiction over waterfront heliports and seaplane bases.
As to fire protection, the Port Authority does not perform this function to any significant degree but relies, instead, on the New York City Fire Department. The department, in turn, works closely with the U.S. Coast Guard in maintaining safety and operating standards for operation of facilities and vessels in the harbor.
We urge, therefore, that the definition be broadened to assure that the New York Fire Department could receive the funds that Congress would deliver to cover firefighting services for the port. This responsibility should remain with the department, which has proven its
ability to meet harbor firefighting emergencies and to plan for possible emergencies.
The definition of eligibility should be extended to cover public agencies which now have the responsibility for providing harbor fire protection. As an alternative, the legislation could provide that "public authorities” be permitted to contract with qualified local fire departments to provide this coverage, using the Federal aid to cover the cost.
Second, the "maintenance of effort” provision, section 301(c)(2), in the present bill unacceptably limits the possible benefits that this program could provide for the Port of New York. Under this provision, the city of New York, which has extended itself for many years to provide outstanding harborwide firefighting coverage, would be unable to utilize even one dime of these new aid funds to replace any of our local expenditures for marine fire protection.
Just as an aside, Congressman Biaggi, I do want to point out to you within your own district, of course, you have a city island that used to have the availability and the resource of a fireboat. Unfortunately, when the fleet was cut from 10 to 4, City Island lost its fireboat as well as the firehouse.
We feel that with the additional funds that the city could get through this legislation, we would certainly be able to replace some of the apparatus that had to fall by the wayside during the crisis.
That is not a commitment, of course.
Mr. Biaggi. I want you to know that is no mean consideration with relation to the spill. City Island is a city and not an island. It is a way of life.
In my judgment, despite all of the efforts of the fire department, firefighting capacity has been diminished because of the economics of our city.
But I know when you talk in that fashion, that it may not be a commitment-it would not be ethical-but we have understandings.
Mr. FRIEDMAN. On that note, a port city or port agency that provides no marine fire protection service at present could take advantage of this program to provide a new service, while we, the city of New York, would be barred from using these funds to support our existing service.
We feel that this provision is unfair to the city of New York and possibly to other port communities which have recognized the threat to public safety of failing to provide for harbor firefighting services.
Our current budget for the current fiscal year includes $5.1 million for direct expenses on personnel and other costs to maintain our fire department marine division. This is a cut from $7.5 million in fiscal year 1975. This is a substantial and drastic cut percentagewise. This does not include the additional resources of other fire department units and city agencies engaged in developing fire protection and safety standards for harbor activities.
However, despite cutbacks in the marine division, of course we have strained our budget to maintain this service because we recognize its importance. We must not be penalized for this commitment.
The justification for assistance in our case is clear. Our fire department protects the harbor, with some minor supplemental coverage from the Coast Guard. I might note that some other U.S. ports rely on the Coast Guard to provide whatever waterborne firefighting
capacity is available in their harbors. These, I am told, include Miami, Fla., Norfolk, Va., and Charleston, S.C.
Third, the city of New York strongly endorsed the proposal in section 304 of the bill for a Federal study of harbor firefighting capabilities in all American ports. We urge that the scope of the study be expanded to, however, include a review of the relationship between local fire departments and Federal agencies involved in public safety and maritime issues.
There is a special need for closer Federal, State, and local cooperation, as the chairman pointed out, in setting standards for handling and storage of hazardous cargoes, such as liquefied natural gas, LNG.
Finally, the city would like to propose an important addition to the legislation, even though this would not affect the Port of New York. It seems it might be appropriate to make this assistance available to port cities along the American-Canadian border in a way that would encourage them to enter into joint agreements with their Canadian counterparts for coordination of marine fire services if and where needed.
As we have all seen in the New York port, harbor fire problems do not respect the mapmaker's borderlines. This measure should encourage the closest possible coordination among all our harbor jursidictions.
There is no more pressing responsibility for all levels of government than the protection of public health and public safety, as was underscored in this city just last week by the Con Edison blackout and its dire
consequences. This legislation will help assure that the talent and the resources always will be available to maintain essential levels of marine fire protection in American ports.
Mayor Beame has asked me to commend Congressman Biaggi and Congressman Patterson and his colleagues on the subcommittee and the entire staff for advancing this proposal and having the hearings here in New York City.
Commissioner O’Hagen and all the city staff are available and ready to work closely with you in winning congressional approval for the
Mr. BIAGGI. Thank you.
Commissioner O'HAGEN. I would like to say for the benefit of Congressman Patterson that I have very good working relationships with the chief in his community. I have been a guest speaker at the California Fire Commissioners' Association.
In fact, I spent some time with the recently departed Chief of Los Angeles, Kenny Long, who after 2 years figured it is too much pressure, and he better leave. But I have high regard for them, and we share many of the same concerns on the matters that we are discussing today!
We are really talking today about the quality of fire protection in our harbors. The Congressman mentioned two major incidents that were probably our greatest challenges in the last 10 or 11 years, the Alva Cape, and the Sea Witch, each of which involved-well, the first one was two tankers, and the second one was a containership and tanker.
In the case of the Alva Cape and its collision with the Texaco Massachusetts, this was a holocaust that took some 36 lives, and involved