FDNY anti-vaccine mandate protest draws thousands

Thousands of FDNY union members protested outside of Gracie Mansion on Thursday against Mayor Bill de Blasio's new rule requiring them to get a least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine by Friday at 5 p.m.

Union officials insist they are not anti-vaccine but that they are furious about the requirement. They decided to hold the protest after negotiations failed to extend the deadline.

The fire department said Wednesday that an estimated 32% of the department remained unvaccinated.  The city has 11,000 firefighters. Union officials say the city only gave them nine days to decide whether to get the shot, which they say is unfair because about 70% of the department has already been infected with COVID and those emergency responders were often on the front line during the worst days of the pandemic.

RELATED: Nearly two-thirds of Americans have at least 1 dose of COVID-19 vaccine

Their objections come on the heels of a larger protest earlier this week by city workers.

Union officials also insist that there is already a firefighter staffing shortage that hasn't been well-publicized and that the deadline will have serious consequences for the general public. 

"This city is going to look very different on November 1, when the mayor going to force firefighters to not get on the rigs. You're going to see dozens and dozens of firehouses closed, you're going to see response times climb. It is inevitable, lives are going to be lost, that is irrefutable," said FDNY Firefighters Association President Andrew Ansbro.

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Mayor de Blasio's mandate includes all city workers, including sanitation crews and the NYPD

On Wednesday evening, a state Supreme Court judge denied the New York City Police Benevolent Associations request for a temporary restraining order to halt the implementation of the mandate for police officers. 

RELATED: NYC trash pick-up problems expected after vaccine mandate begins

"Today’s ruling sets the city up for a real crisis. The haphazard rollout of this mandate has created chaos in the NYPD. City Hall has given no reason that a vaccine mandate with a weekly testing option is no longer enough to protect police officers and the public, especially while the number of COVID-19 cases continues to fall. Instead, police officers are being told to make a possibly life-changing decision in a matter of days to meet a completely arbitrary deadline, while the NYPD’s leadership spins its wheels and offers no guidance. This not only violates police officers’ rights — it will inevitably result in fewer cops available to protect our city," PBA President Patrick Lynch said in a statement.