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FDNY Planning Big Anti-COVID Vaccine Mandate Demonstration For Thursday Morning Outside Gracie Mansion

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The Friday deadline is approaching for city workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Employees from all departments are protesting -- some by not providing city services and others by organizing rallies.

On Wednesday, CBS2's Lisa Rozner heard from the FDNY about a planned demonstration.

Union leaders told her tens of thousands of firefighters will participate in a rally Thursday at 11 a.m. outside Gracie Mansion.


This comes as some city residents charge sanitation workers are not doing their jobs.

Garbage has been stewing on the streets for more than a week, from Westerleigh on Staten Island to Bay Ridge in Brooklyn. Residents say sanitation workers have missed two scheduled pickups. They believe it's a protest of sorts by those workers who don't want the vaccine.

"This is totally outrageous. You can see on both sides over here," one person said.

"The animals are ripping open the plastic bags to get food," Westerleigh resident Louise Pirrello said.

"It is smelling. They've got tuna fish bags down the block," a Bay Ridge resident named Eric said.

"We called 311. They told me to call 322. There's nobody going to help us," Westerleigh resident Tony Ricadelli added. "They gotta get their act together."

"It's just very unsightly, that's for sure," Pirrello said.

Watch Lisa Rozner's report --

The Department of Sanitation said it's aware of the collection delays. Around one-third of employees -- 35% -- are not vaccinated and the commissioner believes the slowdowns have to do with the Mayor Bill de Blasio's mandate that all city workers get the vaccine by Friday.

"We're going to the union today to say this has to be addressed," de Blasio said.

A rep said the union is telling members to go out and do the best they can. Around 4% of members got vaccinated over the last few days.

"Being a retired city worker, I have to say this is beyond personal now. This is for the welfare of our community," Pirrello said.

There also concerns about a gap in services elsewhere. In the NYPD, 73% are vaccinated. Commissioner Dermot Shea said they won't need backup from outside law enforcement, but the department is planning to use overtime and double shifts to fill shortages.

"We'll be sending, again, notifications to people that our records say don't have vaccination and then we are planning for contingencies at the same time," Shea said.

A State Supreme Court judge denied the Police Benevolent Association lawsuit to halt the mandate and is upholding that officers must have their shots.


In the FDNY, 65% are vaccinated.

Union leaders said another demonstration is planned, similar to the one Monday when thousands marched across the Brooklyn Bridge and shut down one side of traffic.

"These are same people that responded to these towers. These are the same people that responded during Sandy. They were here during COVID, before there were masks, before there was a vaccination, before there was testing, and this is the way they're going to treat our membership?" said Jim McCarthy, president of the Fire Officers Association.

Warning of catastrophic staffing shortages and closing firehouses, Uniformed Firefighters Association President Andrew Ansboro says there will be deaths if the mayor doesn't budge on his mandate.

"I don't think the mayor understands what's going to happen on November 1st," Ansboro said.

Ansboro, who is vaccinated, says 3,500 firefighters still haven't taken the shot.

The unions argue 70% have already been infected with COVID and have natural immunity.

But doctors are still researching how long those antibodies last, especially as new variants emerge over the course of the pandemic.

"The Delta variant is very different than the virus a year ago, so what is your proposal in terms of how the natural immunity reasoning would work?" CBS2's Jessica Layton asked Ansboro.

"The proposal that we laid forth today was that there would be at least a 90-day moratorium on a testing or vaccination option for any firefighter, or any city employee, for that matter, that is coming off of an infection," he said. "Ninety days is obviously a safe window."

A union lawsuit was filed Wednesday morning with the state, warning that losing more than 3,000 firefighters could close some firehouses and delay emergency response times. They're asking the mayor for more time.

"I'm assuming that the commissioner is telling the mayor, 'We got this.' I'm telling you, you're wrong," Ansboro said.

A high-ranking FDNY source tells CBS2 that as many as 20% of fire companies could close with 20% fewer ambulances on the streets.

Union leaders say come Monday, they will tell their unvaccinated workers to show up for work and let the mayor send them home.

CBS2's Jessica Layton contributed to this report.

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