Court Rules: Fire Engine 261 Wasn’t Closed By The Book

Queens Tribune - July 08, 2003

By Angela Montefinise

The court decided on July 2 that five of six firehouses closed by the City in an effort to save money earlier this year were closed correctly and should stay closed. Engine 261 – which covers Dutch Kills, parts of Long Island City and Manhattan’s Roosevelt Island – was not closed correctly, the court said, because Manhattan’s Community Board 8 was not notified of the closing 45 days in advance, a necessary procedure mandated by the City Charter to give community members proper notice of service changes. Community Board 8 Chairman Charles Warren told the Tribune at presstime that the Board has still not received notice of the closing, which took place on May 25. The court will hold a hearing next week to decide what should be done to remedy the Engine 261 situation. Although this week’s decision called the closing of Engine 261 “rational,” a source close to the case told the Tribune that “it looks good” that the court will rule that the city needs to reopen the engine company, which was the only Queens Fire Department entity closed. Once the court chooses a remedy, its decision is complete, and the city can appeal the decision. The city is expected to appeal if the court rules to reopen the company. Another option for the city is to reopen the engine company, issue the notice, then close it again 45 days later. Jerry Walsh, president of the Dutch Kills Civic Association, said, “We know that could happen, but at least now, the law is being looked at . . . Even if we don’t win, the city is at least being forced to follow the rules. I’m ecstatic.” As the Tribune went to press, Gioia held a press conference on the steps of City Hall announcing the Brooklyn court’s decision, and said, “Today, Mayor Bloomberg was told, you have to play by the rules like everyone else. In its haste, its rush to close firehouses, the city ignored the simple words of the Charter, our city’s constitution.” The Mayor’s office had no comment on the interim decision, but a statement by Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo also claimed victory, and said, “We are extremely pleased that the judge agreed with us on five of six – or all but one – of the closings.  This is a clear-cut victory for the city.” He added, however, “We disagree with the judge’s decision on notice for Engine Company 261. However, while the judge found that there was a technical deficiency in
the notice requirement, he also found this closing was both ‘rational’ and appropriate as well.  Moreover, he did not order Engine Company 261 reopened at this time, nor – as he previously has indicated – did he feel there was there any adverse public impact by the city closing any of the firehouses.”