Google Street View of Long Island City’s engine 261
In 2003, when then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg shuttered six city firehouses including Engine Company 261 at 37-20 29th Street in Long Island City, the growing neighborhood was nowhere near its current density. Since then, a veritable mini-city of high-rise residential towers has sprung up in the once-industrial Queens neighborhood; the FDNY has been considering the need for more firepower to keep the mini-metropolis safe. The recent announcement of Amazon’s impending arrival with 25,000 jobs in tow has given more urgency to concerns about the increased demand for emergency services, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Image: Thomas Hawk via Flickr
At Monday’s City Council hearing on the matter, John Sudnik, the FDNY’s acting chief of department, said, “We can anticipate with confidence that the growth in daytime population brought on by Amazon will lead to a greater number of incidents. Our existing need for resources in Long Island City will be expanded by the rapid growth that the area will experience when Amazon arrives.”
Chief Sudnik said the community district once served by Engine 261 showed a 19 percent increase in emergency calls to the FDNY between 2014 and 2018; the department’s response times over the same period became 9 percent slower. The adjacent district–the one that will host Amazon’s new offices–saw emergency calls up 16 percent during the same time, according to FDNY officials, and a 4 percent increase in FDNY response times over the same period.
The estimated cost to reopen engine company 261 is $4 million. Though the FDNY brought another life-support unit to Long Island City and has used a new response group to meet the demand uptick, City Council members said at the hearing that the city fell short in anticipating need, even before Amazon came calling. And the FDNY says it had no say in the Amazon deal before it happened.
In a recent Crain’s op-ed, Gerard Fitzgerald, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, called the closing of engine company 261 a “short sighted move,” and urges Mayor de Blasio and elected officials “to stand with us now and bring Engine 261 back, just like they stood with us 15 years ago.” According to Chief Sudnik, officials from Amazon will be meeting with city agencies–including the FDNY–to figure out how they can help.
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Neighborhoods : Long Island City