Admired FDNY dispatcher retires after 41 yrs.
THE FDNY IS giving a beloved radio dispatcher a special signoff after a four-decade career.
Gary Greenbaum will be honored Friday for his continuous service to the city, officials said.
The Bronx was burning when Greenbaum, 66, joined the FDNY as a fire dispatcher in 1977.
That year, firefighters responded to 129,619 blazes, according to the website fdnewyork.com
On April 29, he made his last broadcast: He was retiring after 41 years of service.
What followed was 15 minutes of well-wishes from his colleagues in the field and in headquarters, including the chief of the FDNY’s Bureau of Communications, he said.
“It’s sad because you work 12or 18-hour shifts in this job and now you’re leaving . . . it’s like leaving a second family,” said Greenbaum. “It’s sad that I won’t be able to help the city.”
Greenbaum (photo) joined FDNY’s Communications Bureau because both he and his dad were fire buffs who bonded over listening to their scanners and going to fire scenes.
“That’s where I learned the job,” he joked. “I already had prior experience before I came on the job.”
His father would often chip in at emergencies and was even made an FDNY honorary assistant chief, he explained.
Greenbaum dispatched fire and emergency calls for 10 years before he was made a supervisor. The rest of his time was spent training and overseeing a team of dispatchers. He served in all the five boroughs during his career, he said. “We receive the alarms and we send the fire apparatus out to assist,” he said. “They may need additional help so we help them out if they can.” A unique knowledge of the city was key to the job, especially in the years before Google Maps, he said. “When I came in in 1977, there were no computers at all,” he said. “You had to process the situation, know where it was happening and send the firefighters there, and we did it in less than a minute. And it was much busier in the ’70s than it was today. Last year, firefighters were dispatched to 42,423 fires according to city statistics — that’s a 67% drop from 40 years ago.
“I was there for all the evolutions of computers,” Greenbaum said. “Things changed, but they never went bad.”
“It’s an amazing job, but because of all the security no one could come and see it,” he said. “Most people think when they are calling 911 they are calling their local firehouse, but they’re calling us.”
Greenbaum will be one of 300 FDNY civilian employees who will be honored Friday at FDNY headquarters in downtown Brooklyn for giving their, blood, sweat and tears to the city for 20 to 40 years.
“It’s a very special department,” Greenbaum added.
“I know I’m being prejudiced but not only is it the largest department, it’s the best department in the country. It’s very special to me and I enjoyed serving them for all these years.”