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NYC bill to protect FDNY firefighters on film sets approved by City Council

FDNY firefighters look into the ground floor of

FDNY firefighters look into the ground floor of a Harlem building in March 2018 after fellow firefighter Michael Davidson died while fighting a fire there on the set of the film, "Motherless Brooklyn." Credit: Charles Eckert

Legislation to make New York City film productions safer after an FDNY firefighter from Floral Park died on a Harlem movie set passed Thursday in a unanimous City Council vote.

The vote was 46-0, according to Juan Soto, a spokesman for the City Council.

Crafted by Councilmen Joseph C. Borelli (R-Staten Island) and Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., (D-Brooklyn), the bill now goes to Mayor Bill de Blasio to be signed into law.

It comes nearly three years after Michael Davidson, a 15-year veteran with the FDNY, died battling a fire on the Harlem set of "Motherless Brooklyn."

The March 2018 fire broke out inside an old jazz club converted for the set of the 1950s era film noir directed by Edward Norton.

The legislation sets up a system of notifications from the film permit holder to the FDNY regarding any alterations, such as partitions or other structural changes, made to a premise. The FDNY will then notify engine and ladder companies of those changes so responding firefighters are prepared when they arrive on a movie set.

Davidson, 37, who served with Engine Co. 69, died after becoming separated from his fellow firefighters in the basement of the five-story structure on St. Nicholas Avenue near W. 149th Street.

A Zoom conference call Thursday announcing passage of the bill out of committee before the council vote included his wife, Eileen; children Brooke, Joseph, Emily and Amy; his brother, FDNY firefighter Eric Davidson and parents Bobby and Paula, and Uniformed Firefighters Association president Andrew Ansbro and vice president Robert Eustace.

Before the council vote, Borelli said the bill's approval would mean Davidson's death is "the last time a firefighter has to die on the set of a film in New York City."

In urging the "immediate and unanimous" passage of the legislation, Borelli said: "Michael Davidson should not have died, his widow should not have to be here today."

Elaine Davidson said "the weight of what we feel on a daily basis is indescribable," but she thanked the council "for not having his loss be in vain."

She also said the bill "is not us against Hollywood" and should not be taken as a statement against filming in the city.

"If you knew Michael you knew how much he loved his films," Davidson said, fighting back tears. "He was always quick with a film one-liner I could never get."

Before the vote, Eric Davidson, flanked by his father Bobby and mother Paula, who held a framed photo of her late son in her hands, said he was grateful for the proposed legislation.

"We want to make certain no one else has to go through what we've gone through the past few years," he said.

With Matthew Chayes

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