In the months since Great Neck native and former Vigilant firefighter Michael Weinstock announced he would attempt to unseat U.S. Congressman Tom Suozzi in 2020, he has campaigned in part by mentioning the work he did as a first responder following 9/11.
In response to that discussion, current Vigilant President Philip Katz sent a letter to several local publications saying that Weinstock did no work for them at Ground Zero.
“While Vigilant dispatched volunteer firefighters and volunteer EMS staff to assist with the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero immediately after 9/11, according to our records, Weinstock neither volunteered to assist with those efforts nor participated in those efforts as a member of Vigilant,” Katz, who said the letter was a matter of clearing up the record, and that the company took no position on the congressional race, wrote. “We want the public to be provided with accurate information about its political candidates, and they should know that Weinstock is not a ‘longtime volunteer of Vigilant,’ and to our knowledge he is not, and has not been, an active member of any volunteer fire department since 2001.”
Following Katz’s letter, Weinstock and several former Vigilant firefighters have come forward to defend Weinstock’s 9/11 record.
One of the people who rushed to defend Weinstock’s 9/11 record was former Vigilant chief Andy DeMartin, who wrote a letter rebuking Katz’s claims shortly after they were circulated.
“I worked side by side with Michael Weinstock when the Vigilant Fire Company was assigned to work with FDNY firefighters at Ground Zero,” DeMartin wrote. “I worked closely with Michael on the pile.”
DeMartin told the Great Neck Record that Weinstock and him had an occasionally stormy past. But he also added that any claims that the congressional candidate had embellished his record were false, and reflected poorly on the company as a whole.
“I think it’s just bad business for the company, the organization should be above the fray,” DeMartin said. “He was there. You can’t just erase somebody being there.”
Mark Meade, himself a 20-year Vigilant veteran who left the company in 2012 and moved out of the area in 2013, asked not to be quoted directly, but further reiterated that Weinstock was there at Ground Zero with him and the company.
In a letter he wrote in response to Katz, Weinstock said his decision to speak publicly about his work as during 9/11 broke an unwritten rule among first responders. He speculated that other firefighters might resent him for doing so.
“Rescue workers are trained to shy away from attention and never boast about personal accomplishments,” Weinstock wrote. “And firefighters who talk with the media about their time at Ground Zero have always been treated with a special type of scorn.”
Correction: The version of this article that appeared in print incorrectly stated Philip Katz is the chief of the Vigilant Fire Company. He is the company’s president.