Two firehouses decommissioned amid intense protests in 2003 will be reborn — one as a home for the borough’s nomadic orchestra and the other as community center.
The former home of Engine 204 on Degraw Street in Cobble Hill will be leased to the Brooklyn Philharmonic for 10 years, while two community service groups, the People’s Firehouse and Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (which goes by the acronym, NAG), will take over the Engine 212’s station on Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg.
“Good economic development should always be accompanied by development that makes communities more attractive places to live and work,” said Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky.
For the Brooklyn Phil, which will use the building for administrative offices and an “intimate” performance space, the new building ends its 10-year nomadic journey through the borough since its offices left the Brooklyn Academy of Music — though its “main stage” performances are still there.
“Having a permanent home will allow us to continue to flourish and grow while providing a multi-disciplinary, on-site venue for both Philharmonic and neighborhood use,” said J. Barclay Collins II, the orchestra’s chairman.
The firehouses have been in a smoldering controversy since the city shuttered them to cut costs in 2003.
Protestors, including actor (and former firefighter) Steve Buscemi and local elected officials, were arrested after forming a human chain in front of the Cobble Hill firehouse. The group claimed that the closing would significantly slow emergency response times, but that has not happened.
Still, the situation flared up again when the city said it would sell the buildings, but Mayor Bloomberg blocked them from becoming condos. The strategy reduced the criticism, but didn’t extinguish it.
“I hope the next administration will take a look at bringing the firehouse back. Until then, I am pleased it will be put to a community use,” said Councilmember Bill DeBlasio (D–Park Slope), referring to the Degraw Street station, where he was arrested.