Port Chester was ordered by the New York State Supreme Court to temporarily restore the staffing of the Rye Brook firehouse with a paid firefighter starting Friday night.
The court’s ruling comes 24 hours after Rye Brook filed a lawsuit against Port Chester for violating a shared fire services contract when Port Chester eliminated its paid fire department last week.
As part of the fire services agreement between the two villages, Rye Brook pays Port Chester about $1 million annually from 2013 to 18 for a career Port Chester firefighter to staff the Rye Brook fire station for a 12-hour overnight shift each night.
The court order begins Friday night and runs until May 20, when the two villages will meet with the judge.
With the paid Port Chester firefighter back in the Rye Brook firehouse at night, Rye Brook Mayor Paul Rosenberg said he is willing to meet with Port Chester officials, which he was previously unwilling to do.
“We’re happy that the court agreed with us that Port Chester was breaching the contract,” Rosenberg said. “We are now looking forward to sitting down with Port Chester and hashing this out.”
Both Rosenberg and Port Chester Mayor Dennis Pilla said they were emailing each other on Thursday night trying to arrange a time for the two villages to meet.
“The judge understood Port Chester’s decision to eliminate the paid firefighters,” Pilla said, “but he wanted to give Rye Brook time to put together alternative plans and talk to us.”
Pilla said details about how Port Chester will staff the Rye Brook firehouse and if one or all of the firefighters will be hired back is an operational matter that will be handled by Port Chester Village Manager Chris Steers.
Richard Corenthal, the attorney representing the eight career firefighters who were let go by Port Chester, said this court order shows the elimination of the paid firefighters by Port Chester’s village board was “poorly thought out.”
“The Court’s Order confirms that Port Chester’s abolishment of its paid Fire Fighters was poorly thought out with no planning by Mayor Pilla and confirms that Rye Brook cares a lot more about the safety of its citizens then Port Chester which continues to gamble with the lives of its residents,” Corenthal said in an email.