Feeling burned by the city’s refusal to re-open what they call two pivotal neighborhood firehouses, a group of concerned citizens toured all of the sites that could have been saved if the shuttered engine companies were still in operation.
During Latinas Against Fire Cuts 5th Annual Walk Against FDNY Cuts Saturday, members visited both Engine Company 204, 299 Degraw Street, in Carroll Gardens and Engine Company 212, 136 Wythe Avenue, as well as several area locations where fatal fires have occurred.
Spokesperson Josefina Sanfeliu said that as they visited the sites to honor those who were lost, they reflected on how they could have been saved if Engine 204 and Engine 212 had been spared from the chopping block.
Amid some public outcry, the city shut down the two firehouses back in 2003, citing budget cuts.
Although many had hoped that the firehouses would be re-opened, city officials instead hammered out a deal that the million-dollar properties would be turned over to community organizations.
Just days before their fifth annual walk, the city’s Economic Development Corporation announced that Engine Company 204 would be handed over to the Brooklyn Philharmonic, who will convert the site into a home for their orchestra, as well as a community cultural center.
The city awarded Engine 212 in Williamsburg to the People’s Firehouse, Inc., a group that was created in the 1970s to protest the city’s original attempt to close the beloved firehouse in the 1970s. People’s Firehouse Inc. would be sharing the space with the Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, will turn the firehouse into a gallery space for local art organizations and meeting space for non-profit organizations.
Despite these beneficial uses, marchers said that if the firehouses had remained open, they could have been instrumental in fighting fires that killed three boys in Williamsburg in 2005, a fatal fire on Pacific Street back in 2006 and the 10-alarm blaze that destroyed fifteen warehouses in Greenpoint.
During previous walks, Sanfeliu said that the firehouse closures only saves each city resident about $1 a year.
“You could have life savers, or you can have candy,” she said, adding that the city made their decision to close the firehouses with “thirty-year-old data.”
“My doctor does not do anything on me with 30 year old data,” she said. “You want to close something you get updated information and then maybe you might make a different decision.”
Protestors also added that FDNY response times increased when the firehouses were shuttered.
From the outset, fire officials admitted that response times in the areas where firehouses were closed would increase by about a minute, yet they were “well below the city average.”