Pols decry plan to close Engine 294

Pols decry plan to close Engine 294
Residents protest the proposed closing of Engine 294 last year. The Richmond Hill company is also on the chopping block this time around.
By Joe Anuta

A Richmond Hill firehouse is slated to close under the city’s plan, making lawmakers and civic leaders furious.

The city released a list of 20 firehouses across the five boroughs that are candidates for closing due to budget constraints.

Engine Co. 294, at 101-20 Jamaica Ave., is on the chopping block along with Engine 306 at 40-18 214th Place in Bayside, Engine 328 at 16-19 Central Ave. in Far Rockaway and Ladder 128 at 33-51 Greenpoint Ave. in Long Island City.

“The mayor’s proposal to close Engine 294 on Jamaica Avenue is absurd,” state Assemblyman Michael Miller (D-Woodhaven) said in a statement. “We have already lost major services in Queens and losing this firehouse would simply add insult to injury.”

Miller and others in the area have cited Richmond Hill and Woodhaven as especially prone to deadly fires.

Many area homes are built of wood, Miller said, and are also built close to one another, which is why the FDNY’s response time is critical.

“Delaying response times to these neighborhoods will directly cause more property damage and loss of life,” he said.

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), whose district encompasses the Richmond Hill firehouse, also condemned the closures.

“The mayor’s list of the 20 targeted company closings illustrates how every corner of this city will be impacted, its safety compromised and its residents put at risk — this is unacceptable,” said Crowley, chairwoman of the Council Fire and Criminal Justice Committee. “If the city moves forward with any of these closures, people who could have been saved will die.”

Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) also blasted the mayor for the proposal. She cited a deadly incident that occurred after the city closed firehouses in the 1990s. Two people burned to death in Woodhaven.

“The responding firehouse, Engine 294 on 101-20 Jamaica Ave., was closed due to budget cuts and is again on this list this time,” she said in a statement. “I will strongly fight these cuts, as we cannot jeopardize the safety of people in order to balance the budget.”

The FDNY released a list of proposed changes in response times for all of the listed firehouses. The response time for the first truck from the Richmond Hill firehouse would be 32 seconds longer on average, according to the document.

But a spokesman for city Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio said the real difference would be even greater since the old response numbers are not current.

The original response time numbers in the document are an average of the last three years, said Wiley Norvell, making them artificially high and the difference in response times seem less drastic.

DeBlasio also released a statement saying that the closures will push the response times for all four Queens firehouses of the four-minute recommendation of the The National Fire Protection Association. A response time under four minutes prevents fires from spreading beyond a single room, DeBlasio’s statement said.

The Uniformed Fire Fighters Association of Greater New York released a statement in response to the list.

“Today [Mayor] Mike Bloomberg willfully abdicated responsibility for protecting the safety of New Yorkers with his proposal to close 20 fire companies. [Twenty] closed fire companies will affect at least 60 communities and the city as a whole,” said President Steve Cassidy.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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