State Delay Slows 3 Men’s FDNY Dreams

By Michael Novinson Times Herald Record

GOSHEN — The guys from Ladder 47 in the Bronx became a familiar sight around Lt. Vincent Tancredi’s Pine Bush home after the firefighter developed brain cancer from working in the 9/11 rubble of the World Trade Center.

Men whom Vincent’s son James had never before met now came around regularly to mow the lawn and vacuum the floors.

By the time Vincent Tancredi died in 2008, James knew he wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps.

John Sullivan Jr. came down with pancreatic cancer two years later, also from his work as a 9/11 first responder.

Within a month he was dead.

Firefighters streamed in by the thousands to the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Goshen for John Jr.’s funeral. The overwhelming show of support convinced sons Michael and John III to join the force.

All three took the civil service exam in April 2012 and, with the legacy points awarded to kids of firefighters who died in the line of duty, scored well enough to be hired by the New York City Fire Department.

Everything appeared set for the trio to fulfill their dreams.

Then came a rude surprise.

Friends in the fire department tipped them off during late April phone calls, and the formal FDNY letters arrived in the mail around May 30.

Based on the FDNY department’s interpretation of civil service law, deaths from 9/11-related illnesses were not classified as active-duty deaths. And without the legacy points, it’s unlikely the three Orange County residents — or 10 others in the New York City area in a similar situation — will be brought on before the list expires.

“Our fathers didn’t die mowing the lawn. They didn’t die shoveling snow,” said John Sullivan III, of Goshen. “They died in the line of duty, and they should be recognized accordingly.”

John wrote to state lawmakers and got lawyers to assist with the cause.

Sen. Martin Golden, R-Brooklyn, sponsored a bill that would expand the definition of “in the line of duty” to include those who died due to their role in the 9/11 rescue effort.

The bill passed the Senate, 62-0, on June 11 and the Assembly, 141-0, on June 18.

“We did the impossible,” John said. “We got the bill through before the session ended.”

But 45 days have passed since then, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo still hasn’t acted.

“It hasn’t been sent to the governor’s desk yet,” said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi. “It remains under review.”

The governor’s office has not been in touch with any of the affected firefighters, John said.

With the legacy points, John III, 30; James, 24, of Bloomingburg; and Michael, 29, of Florida; would almost certainly be part of the FDNY class in January.

So the trio continues to wait, hoping Cuomo will rectify the situation before it’s too late.

“Some people are locksmiths; others are lumberjacks,” said John. “Our families are firemen.”

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