Press Releases

For Immediate Release: January 24, 2007
Brooklyn Downtown Star Editorial

Auctioning Off a Mistake?

Last week Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn borough president, held a hearing on a city plan to auction off two closed firehouses (part of six that were closed citywide in 2003). The fact that both of these firehouses are in growing neighborhoods - Williamsburg and Carroll Gardens - is bad enough, but if statistics provided as part of the testimony of the UFA's John Kelly are to be believed, the fact that they are closed at all should have all of Brooklyn, and the city for that matter, worried.

It's well known that response times have gone up since the firehouses closed by 13 seconds, according to the FDNY's own method of calculation. That number is probably a lot higher if you agree with critics that the department's formula is fundamentally flawed. However, according to Kelly, in 1956, total firefighter emergency responses in Brooklyn were 20,466; in 2006 that number had increased a whopping 700 percent to 138,683! During that same time period, the number of engine companies servicing the borough decreased by nine.

We could debate whether or not EC212 or EC204, both built in the 1800s, are adequate technologically to house modern-day firefighting equipment. But there is the very real possibility, rather likelihood, that both of these communities will need more fire protection as they continue to grow, if they don't already. Selling the firehouses at a meager profit seems ludicrous before locations for new firehouses are secured.

The current mayor of New York City is known to play hardball, but on the closing of the firehouses he seemed extraordinarily obstinate, almost as if it was a matter of pride not to give in to community concerns. Perhaps the reason there is a rush to sell the houses is because when the city gets a new mayor in a few years, their first populist act, and possibly even a pillar of their campaign platform, will be re-opening the firehouses. A photo-op like that, suggesting that maybe the previous mayor had made a mistake, is possibly too much for Bloomberg's still-fragile legacy to bear.

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