By Alex Davidson
Woodhaven residents won their battle Monday to save Engine Co. 293 from closing as the Legislature’s reinstatement of $2.7 billion in aid to the city allowed Mayor Michael Bloomberg to keep the firehouse open.
The mayor made the announcement days before the firehouse was scheduled to close after state legislators voted to override Gov. George Pataki’s veto of the aid package. The influx of funds also means Fire Squad 252 in Bushwick, Brooklyn will not be closed.
“With most of the surrounding homes being older wood frame construction, this firehouse is an absolutely necessary safeguard and protection for our families and valued home and possessions,” said state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale). “I am thankful that we will not have to suffer the inevitable tragedy that would have occurred if this fire company had been closed.”
Bloomberg announced the closing of eight firehouses last year in an effort to come up with a portion of the $3.8 billion in savings needed to narrow the city’s budget gap. The two firehouses the mayor had planned to close in Queens were Engine Co. 293, located at 89-40 87th St. in Woodhaven, and Engine Co. 261 at 37-20 29th St. in Long Island City.
The fate of Engine Co. 261 in Long Island City and the five other firehouses was still uncertain. They were supposed to close by Friday.
“Unfortunately, financial realities just do not allow us to maintain all fire companies currently in existence, but we believe this plan balances fiscal necessities with our duty to protect the public,” Bloomberg said.
The mayor said the response time in the area served by Engine Co. 293 would have risen above the citywide average had the station been closed. He said his priority to avoid such an increase was a factor in the decision to keep the firehouse operating.
Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) had organized three rallies in recent months in opposition to Bloomberg’s plan to close the firehouse. Several elected officials and hundreds of residents of Woodhaven and the surrounding neighborhoods that would have been affected if the firehouse had closed attended the rallies.
Addabbo was joined in his effort to save Engine Co. 293 by Maltese, Councilman Dennis Gallagher (R-Middle Village), state Assembly members Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway), Anthony Seminerio (D-Richmond Hill) and Brian McLaughlin as well as Borough President Helen Marshall.
“I believe that essential services, such as this fire company, should never be sacrificed for any reason. This budget should not be balanced by sacrificing public safety,” Maltese said. “This has been attempted by former mayors with tragic results.”
Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156