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Veterans have opening to join FDNY with new state law

Sponsored in Albany by Gounardes, Abbate 

SOUTH BROOKLYN — A bill sponsored by two Southwest Brooklyn elected officials to make it easier for military veterans to join the Fire Department of New York has been signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The legislation sponsored by State Sen. Andrew Gounardes and Assemblymember Peter Abbate, both Democrats, will clear a path to allow veterans to become first responders by amending existing state law to extend the qualifying period for veterans.

Under the old law, veterans were allowed to deduct up to six years off their age in order to meet the age requirement of 29 to join the FDNY. The new amendment will permit them to deduct up to seven years.

The law seeks to assist veterans whose military deployments might have kept them from applying for the FDNY sooner.

“America’s veterans deserve the best when they come home, and here in New York, we are doing everything possible to make it easier for them to join the workforce. While some public service work opportunities put an age limit on eligible applicants, veterans deserve a reasonable accommodation, since many of them were serving our country during the time that they would have been eligible for these opportunities,” said Abbate, whose district includes parts of Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights and Sunset Park.

Cuomo signed the bill on Veterans Day. This year marked the 100th anniversary of the celebration of Veterans Day.

“Any person who puts their life on the line for our country deserves our unending gratitude and respect. With the passage of this bill, we are helping selfless people who have the desire to enter into public service as firefighters after already serving our nation in the military. This is the right thing to do, and I’m glad this commonsense change will be made,” said Gounardes, who represents Bay Ridge and Southwest Brooklyn.

The new law will allow people like decorated Navy SEAL Shaun Donovan, a Staten Island native who was previously rejected by the FDNY after just missing the age cut-off for military members, to become a firefighter. Donovan had passed the FDNY’s written test and physical exam.

Jim Long, the FDNY’s director of public information, told CNN that the FDNY will extend an offer to Donovan to join.

“I am beyond humbled to have the chance to be a part of the FDNY and look forward to doing my part to keep the people and property of New York City safe,” Donovan said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Max Rose, who is also a military veteran, said he is pleased to see the new state law.

“Shaun Donovan represents the best our city and country has to offer. I commend his commitment to serve not only overseas, but now back here at home, and appreciate all the work done by so many to make this happen,” said Rose, a Democrat representing Southwest Brooklyn and Staten Island.

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