FDNY Remembers Former Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta

March 24, 2016

On Thursday March 24, 2016, former Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta passed away at the age of 83. He was appointed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on January 1, 2002 to head the New York City Fire Department less than four months after September 11th. In what was the most difficult period in the history of the Department, Commissioner Scoppetta led the FDNY through its recovery and rebuilding over the next several years.

"As Fire Commissioner, Nicholas Scoppetta was instrumental to rebuilding the FDNY during a time of unimaginable loss and devastation," said FDNY Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro. "The Department is stronger today thanks to his leadership in the years following September 11th. He was truly a public servant without peer, and we deeply mourn his loss."

At the time of Scoppetta's appointment, the Department had more than 16,000 employees including more than 11,000 firefighters and supervising officers, 2,900 Emergency Medical Services employees and 1,500 support staff; as well as a budget of more than one billion dollars. As Commissioner, he was faced with the challenge of rebuilding the ranks while simultaneously learning the lessons of September 11th and preparing to respond to the potential future attacks

"After 47 years in government and public service, there has been no greater reward than to have helped rebuild the Fire Department in the aftermath of 9/11," said Commissioner Scoppetta in his farewell letter to FDNY. "I am confident this Department is ready to meet the many challenges of the 21st Century."

One of Commissioner Scoppetta's first actions was to recruit McKinsey & Company to provide an independent review of the FDNY's response to 9/11. The comprehensive, six-month study included recommendations to fix and enhance the radio communications system; new training on multiple levels to respond to large-scale incidents including chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks; improved coordination with other agencies; creation of a Department strategic plan; and the creation of Incident Management Teams and the Fire Department Operations Center. Under Commissioner Scoppetta's guidance, many of these programs were implemented, strengthening FDNY's ranks.

Get More Photos of Former Commissioner Nicholas Scopetta

A lifelong New Yorker, Commissioner Scoppetta was born on the Lower East Side. When he was five years old he was placed in foster care and lived in various institutions until he was twelve. He attended public schools in Manhattan. After serving two years in the Army, he attended Bradley University on the G.I. Bill and graduated in 1958 with a degree in Engineering. He attended law school at night on a New York State Regents Scholarship and worked in the criminal courts during the day assisting in the investigation and prosecution of cases in which children had been abused or neglected.

Commissioner Scoppetta had a distinguished career in public service, serving for more than four decades in a number of top level management positions in city and federal government posts. Prior to joining the Department, Commissioner Scoppetta served as Commissioner for the Administration of Children's Services under Mayor Giuliani, where he created a system for foster care and child protective services that has become a national model. He is also a former Deputy Mayor and Commissioner of the Department of Investigation for the City of New York.

Outside of public service, in 1978 Commissioner Scoppetta joined the faculty of the New York University School of Law, as a professor and Director of the Institute of Judicial Administration, before founding the law firm of Scoppetta & Seiff, where he engaged in the private practice of law until his return to public service in 1996.

Commissioner Scoppetta was a 16 year President, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and board member of the Children's Aid Society, a not-for-profit social service agency which annually serves more than 200,000 needy children in New York City. He also founded, and served as President of the Board of New Yorkers for Children, a not-for-profit agency which funds and supports programs for children in Foster Care. He served on numerous boards of not-for-profit institutions and is a past member of the Executive Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.