Former Newburgh city councilwoman blasts mayor over fire department staffing

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Newburgh Fire Department ladder truck
Torrance Harvey
Gay Lee

NEWBURGH – In the wake of the recent Lander Street fire in Newburgh that claimed the life of a woman, former Newburgh City Councilwoman Gay Lee is criticizing Mayor Torrance Harvey for manpower shift reductions and his call to supplement the paid professionals with volunteers.

She called that an outrage.

“There is nothing more important in the City of Newburgh than police and fire, public safety,” Lee said.

Lee said she knows from personal experience the benefit of having full-time pad firefighters. When she was 11 and living with her family in Brooklyn, their home burned and her hair and scalp caught fire, scaring the top of her head to her hairline.

But, Mayor Harvey said with the paid department, it’s all about the cost.

“You should see the overtime rates for the firefighters during her tenure on the city council,” he said. “Our city manager and city council have emphasized that we are really, really going to trail down this overtime. In 2020, it was like $1.6 million just for the fire department.”

Harvey also discounted the claims that had the initial staffing level been higher as it used to be, there was a good chance the woman who died in the recent Lander Street fire could have been saved.

Lee declined to comment when asked if she was considering another run for public office.