Dec. 19, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
Local officials and community groups rallied in Dutch Kills today to once more urge for a decommissioned FDNY engine company to be reinstated in the area, given Long Island City’s every-growing population.
The demands were made outside FDNY Ladder 116 at 37-20 29th St., an active firehouse which, like all ladder companies through the city, works search and rescue calls, but does not house the equipment to put out a fire.
The 29th Street location also co-housed Engine Company 261 for years before shutting operations in 2003, with the more than 20 engine members at the site transferred to other units. The engine company here, like elsewhere in the city, provided water and hoses to fight fires.
Residents and elected officials said at the rally that Long Island City’s population and development boom immediately warrants that the Engine Company be reinstated for the community’s safety.
Their demands, which include a letter sent to the mayor by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney days ago, follow a rally held just last year on the same issue.
“Firefighters have been asked to do more and more with fewer resources, and as the disastrous five-alarm fire in Sunnyside shows us, we cannot continue to put lives at risk,” Maloney said. “We must have an adequate number of personnel and equipment to serve this growing community.”
Maloney added that the nearest engine company to the area is a half mile away, a distance she said could put lives in peril.
The Uniformed Fire Officers Association also stands in strong support of the engine company’s reinstatement, and said that the Bloomberg-era decision to close firehouses was “short sighted.”
“Every community deserves adequate fire protection,” said Jake Lemonda, UFOA president.
Many at the rally pointed to the closed engine company as one of several infrastructure concerns raised by Long Island City residents in recent years. They also criticized the mechanisms that allow for such immense growth, and took a stab at Amazon’s plan with the city and state to build offices at Anable Basin.
“We don’t want to repeat the mistakes made during the Bloomberg years when hundreds of thousands of people were lured into formerly industrial communities which had inadequate public infrastructure,” said Council Member Joe Borelli, who chairs the city council’s fire and emergency management committee. “With this new Amazon campus…it’s imperative that Engine 261 in Long Island City be reactivated.”
The neighborhood, in the 15 years since the engine company closed, has seen more than 16,000 units completed, with roughly 12,000 units projected to open by 2020, according to the Long Island City Partnership. The development boom, meanwhile, came after the 2001 rezoning of the Queens Plaza area and the 2008 rezoning of Dutch Kills.
“Green-lighting the rapid development of our Long Island City community without providing the necessary infrastructure to sustain population growth is a threat to public safety,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer.
The cohort of officials and groups also say it would be relatively simple to reinstate the engine company, since it was already co-housed at the Dutch Kills location.