Even before Amazon opens its doors to 25,000 additional workers, Long Island City’s fire response infrastructure is already stretched too thin. The area needs a new firehouse, and with Amazon on the horizon, there is no longer time to wait.
Fifteen years ago, long before many of Long Island City’s high-rise towers emerged and tens of thousands of residents moved to a once industrial part of town, the city closed a longstanding firehouse dedicated to the protection of the neighborhood, Engine Co. 261.
This shortsighted move to close Engine 261 left the neighborhood highly vulnerable even at the time of its closing. The Uniformed Firefighters Association, elected officials and civic leaders alike protested the closing, and Mayor de Blasio himself — then a member of the City Council — was part of a lawsuit attempting to block the move.
Fast forward to 2018 and Long Island City has continued to transform, with new high-rise apartments and office buildings worsening the problem.
The nearest fire engine company is 10 blocks away from the old Engine 261, and the greater distance trucks must travel has meant an increase in response times, putting lives at stake — not to mention the increase in traffic and congestion due to the influx of people. Across the city, our firefighters are doing more now with fewer resources than ever. The FDNY has broken its run record for five consecutive years, and unit availability is at an all-time low.
Long Island City, more than any other neighborhood in New York and by some estimates the country, has seen an incredible amount of growth in the last decade. But unacceptably, its fire response infrastructure has not grown with it.