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Sacred Heart students rally for firehouse

Students from Sacred Heart School and PS 41 in Bayside march down Bell Boulevard to protest Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to close FDNY Engine Co. 306. Photo by Rich Bockmann
By Rich Bockmann

The chants of “Save 306” and — with some provocation — “Down with Bloomberg” could be heard along Bell Boulevard Friday as children from the two schools closest to FDNY Engine Co. 306 marched to protest the mayor’s plan to close the Bayside fire company at the end of the month.

Mike Sullivan, whose son John is a fifth-grade student at Sacred Heart School, said he and fellow parents had attended a rally organized by City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) the previous week and wanted to find a way to get the children involved in the cause.

“It was at 10:30 in the morning, so we decided to do something Friday after the kids got out of school,” he said.

As classes at Sacred Heart ended at 2:30 p.m., excited children and their parents gathered outside the school, at 216-01 38th Ave., with smiles and signs imploring the mayor to spare their firehouse. At the request of Halloran, the students had written letters to Bloomberg, which the councilman said he would deliver to the mayor’s office in order to add a “personal dimension” to the issue.

“This is the school closest [to the firehouse] and the one we’re most concerned about,” Halloran said outside the school.

“‘Dear Mayor Bloomberg, why would you close down the firehouse?’” third-grader Vana Konstantinidis said she wrote in her letter. “‘We need the firehouse in our community.’”

Bianca Koniuk, also a third-grader at Sacred Heart, said she wrote the mayor that his plan would save money, but would do so at the cost of putting people’s lives in danger.

Before marching to the firehouse, however, the contingent of pint-sized protesters took a detour to PS 41, at 214-43 35th Ave., where they joined forces with their adolescent accomplices before taking over the sidewalk of Bell Boulevard. Along the way, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) came out to show their support.

On their way to the firehouse at 40-18 214th Place, the procession passed Pete’s Pizza on Bell Boulevard, where Olga Ross had been busy all week collecting signatures for a petition Braunstein would deliver to the mayor’s office.

The waitress said she collected more than 700 signatures from customers and people walking down the street. She said about 50 percent were aware the fire company was potentially on the chopping block and the other 50 percent were eager to sign the petition once they were informed.

“I live a block away from the firehouse,” she said. “When there’s an emergency, I don’t call 911, I run to the firehouse!”

Firefighters were waiting with the firehouse door open as the children arrived, where they posed in front of the fire truck for some photos. Afterward, parents rewarded the activists with Italian ices from Ralph’s around the corner.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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