'Ghostbusters' Firehouse to Close?

Tribeca Trib - May 31, 2011

by Jessica Terrell

Since the days when New York's firefighting equipment was pulled by horses, firemen have been rushing out of Ladder 8's stately red brick building at North Moore and Varick Street. It has been home to firefighters and ghost fighters, and survived being chopped in half in 1914 to make way for the widening of Varick Street. Tragically, it lost one of its own on Sept. 11.

But now, neither history nor fame may be enough to save Ladder 8 from the budget ax.

The ladder company and its firehouse, made famous as the "Ghostbusters" headquarters, is one of two Lower Manhattan fire companies on a list of 20 scheduled for closure by July 1, in a move that Mayor Michael Bloomberg says will save the city $55 million annually.

"It would be a tragedy for the community to lose the firehouse," said Michael Connolly, co-chair of Community Board 1's Tribeca Committee, "for safety reasons, for historic reasons, for sentimental reasons--for the community overall."

Bloomberg says safety will not be compromised. "Every time, people said the world was going to come to an end, and yet we're a heck of a lot safer today," he said in a radio address, adding that his administration has closed six firehouses since 2003, and that response times and fire-related deaths are at an all-time low.

CB1 has vowed to fight the closures and the Ladder 8 men want them to succeed. "I hope the community gets together and figures out a way to save it," said one, who asked not to be identified.

"This is our second home," said another.

Several firefighters, who asked not to be identified, said safety could be compromised if their house is closed. They said other companies, especially second responders in the event of a larger blaze, would have to travel from farther away, and could be delayed by Holland Tunnel traffic congestion.

According to a city analysis, first response time would increase from three minutes and 52 seconds to four minutes and 41 seconds. A second truck would arrive in six minutes, 33 seconds, up from four minutes and 41 seconds.

Ladder 8 is among the city's less active units, according to the analysis, and surrounding companies would be able to handle the additional workload.

The station is known for its role in "Ghostbusters," and the film's fans are frequent visitors. A "Save the 'Ghostbusters' Fire Station" page on Facebook had more than 2,500 fans by the end of May.

More important to locals, the firehouse is a 106-year-old institution. And for preschool students, like those at nearby Tribeca Community School, the loss would be personal. They walk by the firehouse and police stables as part of their daily routine. On one recent unannounced visit, Ladder 8 firefighters handed the kids fireman helmets and let them take turns spraying water from a small fire extinguisher and sit in the fire truck cab.

"It's what they know as their community," said Emily Evans, their teacher, "because they see it every day."