Auburndale Firehouse Work Worries Northeast Queens - March 29, 2012

by Joe Anuta

Civic leaders expressed concern after learning that an Auburndale firehouse will be full of construction workers for nine months but empty of the city's Bravest.

The FDNY is performing renovations to a firehouse at 36-18 Francis Lewis Blvd., where Engine 320 and Ladder 167 are located.

Construction crews will be renovating the first floor of the building, which is set to take about nine months, according to FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer.

During those nine months, the two trucks normally stationed at the house will be moved to separate locations in northeast Queens, Dwyer said.

Engine 320 will be relocated to the quarters of Engine 274, at 41-20 Murray St. in Flushing. Ladder 167 will be relocated to the quarters of Engine 306, at 40-18 214th Place in Bayside. An engine carries water to a fire, while a ladder carries a ladder -- along with all the firefighters who enter flaming buildings.

"These are the next closest firehouses. We do not anticipate an impact to service in the area," Dwyer said. "We have procedures and redundancies in place to ensure that we are in a position to respond to the emergencies that arise."

But Community Board 7 Chairman Gene Kelty, who is also an FDNY battalion chief, expressed concern at a recent meeting that the empty house might indirectly affect fire service to the area.

Kelty's concerns center around a complex algorithm FDNY computers use to assign engines to an emergency.

Typically, the closest fire trucks are dispatched to deal with any emergency, but if the trucks are occupied with another job, the computer will reroute trucks from the next nearest location.

Since Auburndale will already be missing engines from its firehouse, Kelty wanted to make sure the FDNY does not reroute any trucks from Flushing, Bayside or College Point outside the area unless it is an emergency.

His concerns are rooted in the fact that an engine at a Whitestone firehouse was rerouted about 15 times in a matter of weeks, and another truck in Flushing is often called off to other emergencies outside the area.

If those trucks leave and something happens in the Auburndale area, residents could be hung out to dry, he said.

In addition, Kelty wants the FDNY to provide protection if trucks go out on a job from, for example, the Bayside quarters. In that instance, other trucks should be rerouted from outside the neighborhood to take the Baysiders' place and ensure somebody is covering the area, Kelty said.

Kelty and City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) have been working with the FDNY to make ensure the area is adequately serviced and were set to meet with members of the department this week.