MAY LIMIT FIRE CHIEF ON N. Y. APPEALS BOARD
New Bill Presents Opportunity to Substitute Any Chief Officer for Head of Department—Chief Kenlon Opposes Measure
MAYOR HYLAN of New York city has on his desk for approval or disapproval, a local bill, amending the City Charter, under the powders of the Municipal Assembly, which has for its purpose the consolidation of the Board of Appeals* and the Board of Standards and Appeals and the reorganization of both into a single Board of Standards and Appeals, to be comprised of five members, instead of twenty members who now make up the personnel of both boards.
The bill creating the new Board of Standards and Appeals eliminates the fire commissioner, the superintendents of buildings and the chief of the uniformed force of the fire department. The latter is not exactly eliminated, but opportunity is present in the new law to have the chief of fire department substituted by any chief officer above the rank of Battalion Chief.
In place of the aforementioned titles to tie eliminated, the new Board is designed to consist of—”four members appointed to be appointed by the Mayor”—the Fire Department member will bring the total personnel of the new Board up to five members. The appointees of the Mayor shall serve for six years. The amended law, as enacted, provides for:
“An officer of the uniformed force of the fire department above the grade of battalion chief, to be designated by the Fire Commissioner who shall serve without additional compensation. If such a designated member be absent, the commissioner is required to designate the substitute fire officer during the absence of the fire officer originally designated. Under the former arrangement, the Fire Chief received $10 per session. The amended act gives him no additional pay for serving on the Board.
The new act provides that the appointed members of the Board other than the chairman, shall be as follows: ‘One member who shall have had prior to his appointment at least ten years’ experience in structural work as a civil engineer, and one member who shall have had prior to his appointment at least ten years’ experience as an employing building contractor. The chairman of the Board shall have not less than fifteen years experience as an architect or structural engineer, and he shall not be engaged in any other occupation, profession or employment. The three other appointed members shall be called Commissioners of Standards and Appeals; they shall attend all public hearings of the Board and shall give such time to executive meetings and inspections as may be determined by the chairman and the Board. Each of the appointed inembers shall receive such compensation as shall be fixed by the Board of Aldermen upon the recommendation of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment. The chairman and the other appointed members of the Board shall be appointed for terms of six years by the Mayor, who shall also appoint a secretary of the Board.”
The amended law provides that the mayor shall designate or appoint any substitute member in place of a regular member who may be absent due to illness, leave, etc. All hearings held by the Board shall be open to the public. The amended law automatically terminates the membership of the existing personnel and the consolidated-reorganized Board shall be appointed by the mayor, when, as and if the new act is approved and signed by the mayor.
Otherwise the rights and powers of the Board stand “as is_’ and the new law is written to take effect on May 15th, 1925. Four votes are necessary for a decision.
At a public hearing on the new law last Friday, Fire Chief John Kenlon appeared and asked to be heard.
Chief Kenlon said that for fourteen years he has been a member of the Board and that eighty per cent of the cases considered by the board involved protection of buildings from fire. He declared that the law as amended leaves latitude sufficient to make the selection of his successor from among twenty-five other chief officers of the department.
“I challenge anybody here to point to a single instance of where a meeting of the Board of Standards and Appeals had to be held up or adjourned due to any negligence of the Fire Chief,” Kenlon said with some dramatic heat, as be continued : “I have no desire to continue any further on the service of the board. I am perfectly willing to go down, but I want to sink with colors flying. I do not want to be kicked off.”
The chief declared that the provision of buildings from fire was a very serious matter, and he asked “Why should I be put in this position? The responsibility is mine; therefore I should have the power.”
Throughout the hearing Mayor Hylan on several occasions reassured Chief Kenlon that the proposed change in the charter which will consolidate the Board of Appeals with the Board of Standards was in no sense a reflection on his integrity or his loyalty to his public duty. Every time the fire chief made a telling point, the mayor agreed that Chief Kenton’s service was not under question. The mayor told the chief a few times that he was not to regard the change as indicating any lack of confidence in him as a fireman or a public official.