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Queens Leaders, Residents Call For Reopening of Long Island City Firehouse

CBS 2 - June 24, 2017

by CBS News

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Queens community wants its neighborhood firehouse back.

Residents are fighting to get it reopened after it closed 14 years ago, saying it will make them feel safer at night.

“Time is now to reopen Engine Company 261, once and for all,” City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer said Thursday.

Those words echoed outside the Long Island City firehouse, which was closed back in 2003 by the Bloomberg administration, because of budget cuts, CBS2’s Erin Logan reported. It was an emotional time when at least eight FDNY fire engine companies were shut down.

“This is a matter of life and death. This is not about money,” Van Bramer said.

Since Engine Company 261 closed in 2003, nearly 10,000 new housing units have been built in the area, Van Bramer added. And at least 40 bigger, taller building are under construction, as well.

Van Bramer said last week’s deadly fire in London should serve as a wake up call, WCBS 880’s Myles Miller reported.

“Huge towers where there aren’t enough services, and we need a quick response,” he said.

That’s a concern for some residents.

“The risk of accidents is pretty high. Yeah, the neighborhood ought to be prepared for that,” Nick Velikov, of Dutch Kills, said.

There are also large housing complexes and several schools in the heart of Long Island City.

“This neighborhood is not deserted, and it’s not easy to get to. So getting numerous fire companies here is a challenge,” Uniform Firefighters Association President Gerald Fitzgerald said.

Officials said the nearest fire engine company is 10 blocks away. Fitzgerald said the response time since Engine Company 261 close has increased by about 25 seconds.

“I’d say that’s very conservative, to be honest,” he added.

Van Bramer said that number is even higher.

“There’s been a longer response time, approximately 35 seconds, but 35 seconds can be the difference between life and death if someone is trapped in a home,” he said. “You don’t want any delay. You want that engine company to be there right away to be able to save lives.”

CBS2 asked the FDNY if it had any information on response times since 2003. It did not answer the question, but said, “The Department recognizes that Long Island City is a burgeoning community. The Fire Department is dedicated to maintaining the most efficient network of fire mitigation resources, and we continue to adapt our locations with the changing landscape and population of New York City.”

Van Bramer said he’s hopeful Engine Company 261 will be fully equipped and ready to respond to major fires by the end of the summer.