Over the last 10 years, Long Island City (LIC), Williamsburg and Greenpoint transformed from neglected low-population industrial neighborhoods to tightly packed thriving residential areas. Dozens of factories and warehouses have been replaced with high rise apartment buildings. Basic NYC government services have not kept pace with the growing population, and one of the most overlooked and life threatening of those services is the NYC fire department.
In 2003, former Mayor Bloomberg closed 7 firehouses in NYC. Two of those were located in Williamsburg (engine 212) and LIC (engine 261). 2 years after closing these fire houses, Bloomberg rezoned much of North Brooklyn for high rise development (LIC was already rezoned in 2001). Less services + large population density. What could go possibly wrong?
In the case of Engine 261, response time to fires in the area immediately went up. Some area residents didn’t even know they were losing a firetruck: The community board covering Roosevelt Island was not properly notified.
The same increase in response time has affected Northwest Brooklyn, where response time increased up to a minute. A minute is a long time when a building is on fire. A minute is often the difference between life and death. Just check out the videos from the recent gas explosion on the Lower East Side, where an off-duty fireman helped rescue a woman from a fire escape and took a quick look for additional victims. By the time he got back to the ground, the building is fully engulfed. If there had been additional victims trapped upstairs, they would not have made it. All of this happened before the first truck due arrived!
Simply stated – there’s a higher density of firehouses in Manhattan compared to neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens that have been rezoned for high rises buildings. These ‘outer boro’ neighborhoods will soon have the same population density as Manhattan without the services to match.
FDNY personnel is spread thin in these neighborhoods, and many of the new residents of these neighborhoods are new to the area (or new to the city), don’t know that their fire houses were taken away, or that they are being short changed on services. The only reason they don’t know is because there haven’t been any articles written on this subject at all, and no stories in the press or even on other blogs.