By Rich Bockmann
Baysiders concerned about the fate of their local fire company took an hour or so out of their day last week to call their neighbors and urge them to let the mayor know how they feel about his plan to close Engine Co. 306.
Community Board 11 member Tom Meara organized the phone bank and space was donated by the Bourbon Street Cafe for the handful of callers who showed up around noon with their cell phones and community spirit.
“The rallies are good to get the word out there. I wanted to do something different,” Meara said. “The residents hear about it. Now they can get proactive.”
Last month, Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed closing 20 FDNY companies across the city, and since then two rallies have been held outside the Bayside firehouse at the corner of 36th Avenue and 214th Place. CB 11 passed a resolution opposing the closure.
Maera said he first thought to call City Council members, but when he found out they were united in opposition to the mayor’s plan, he decided to try a new tactic.
“Unfortunately, we can’t call [the mayor’s] office, so we have to call 311,” Maera explained.
Volunteers were provided with an alphabetical list of Bayside phone numbers along with a script giving residents instructions on how to reach a live operator at 311 in order to register their concerns.
Natalie Cohen has been a Bay Terrace resident for 45 years who said she was alarmed to find that about 50 percent of the people she called were not even aware their local fire company was in danger of being closed.
“Unfortunately, there are people who don’t know about it. They’re living in a cloud, but when I tell them, they’re like, ‘Oh, my god! They shouldn’t do that,’” she explained in-between calls.
A few firefighters even showed up on their day off to stand up for the community.
“This is a neighborhood thing — it’s really about the community,” said Sean Egan of Engine 306.
Were the fire companies to be closed, the FDNY members would not be laid off but reassigned to companies throughout the city.
“I’ll go to work in Brooklyn or on Francis Lewis. This isn’t about us,” he said with phone and list in hand.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.