Sparking Resentment: Bloomberg, FDNY Top Brass -- and Media -- Skip Deutsche Bank Fire Memorial Service for Firefighters (Updated)
Mike Bloomberg boycotted the second memorial service yesterday for the two firefighters, Joseph Graffagnino and Robert Beddia, who died at the Deutsche Bank site, so the media boycotted it with him. Not a line about it appeared in any newspaper, and only Grace Rauh of NY1 bothered to report about it at all.
Father Joseph Lorenzo, the pastor at Saint Anthony of Padua, told the crowd of family members, firefighters, and friends that he "almost didn't prepare a sermon" because he did in 2008 for the first anniversary memorial and "got bumped by Mayor Bloomberg."
"So I looked around to see if Mayor Bloomberg was here," said the Franciscan priest at the end of a sermon that only briefly referred to what he called "the controversy" surrounding the deaths. "I guess not," he concluded. Fire Commissioner Nick Scoppetta and the top brass from the department were also absent.
The mayor and FDNY leadership did appear at a memorial at the SoHo firehouse in 2008, and Bloomberg spoke at the unveiling of a plaque in honor of the firefighters. Father Lorenzo told the Voice that "the guys at the firehouse asked me to say a few words" before that service, but that when he got there, he was told that "I'd been bumped" by Bloomberg. "The mayor took priority," the priest said.
Instead of attending, Bloomberg held a press conference yesterday morning to announce a $148 million East River Waterfront Esplanade project. He did it at a Wall Street construction site near the Deutsche Bank building on the anniversary of the 2007 fire, and predictably wound up answering a question about the ongoing demolition of the toxic building. He predicted for the umpteenth time that the takedown would be "done very soon." He's apparently as fixated on the timetable as his administration was when it made repeated careless decisions that contributed to the catastrophe. "Bloomberg's Biggest Scandal--The Deutsche Bank Fire--Should Be His Downfall. Why Isn't It?," July 21).
Bloomberg's comments collided with those of Graffagnino's father, Joseph Sr., who attributed the deaths in a NY1 interview to a "huge failing on the part of the City of New York and the State of New York."
FDNY officials ascribed Scoppetta's absence to services for firefighter Paul Warhola, who died of a stroke last week. Warhola's funeral, however, is not until today, though a wake for him was held in Long Island last night. "The union guys are doing both," the senior Graffagnino told the Voice. "They could have too."
Update: After this was posted, Bloomberg press secretary Stu Loeser emailed. He said "for one reason or another, we weren't aware of this year's memorial." He noted that the administration is "in frequent contact with the Graffagnino family about building safety improvements," suggesting that the family failed to mention the memorial to them. When the Voice contacted the fire department before the memorial, they were aware of it, but apparently failed to notify City Hall.
Research credit: Jane C. Timm, Grace Smith