Fireworks on Brooklyn and Queens Border
by Daniel Bush
Feb 24, 2009 | 1411 views | 0 0 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief John Sudnik
FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief John Sudnik
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The proposed closing of Engine Company 271in Bushwick has ignited a firestorm of protest from residents and elected officials who vowed on Monday to fight the city and Fire Department's (FDNY) decision.

The city announced the nighttime closing of Engine Company 271, which operates out of the firehouse at 382 Himrod Street, in December of 2008, but now the entire engine company is on the chopping block.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's budget proposal would permanently shut down Engine Company 271 effective July 1, along with the three other companies originally slated for just nighttime closings.

The proposal is part of a larger FDNY budget slash that would shut 16 fire companies to help reduce the city deficit.

Deputy Assistant Chief John Sudnik of the FDNY's Queens Borough Command defended the closing of 271 at a meeting of the group Citizens for a Better Ridgewood on February 23 before an irate assembly of residents and elected officials.

The engine company serves Bushwick, parts of Ridgewood, and makes medical runs to the Wycoff Heights Medical Center.

"The reason 271 was chosen was based on response times," Sudnik said, as well as the proximity of other firehouses in the area and their ability to take on a larger workload.

Sudnik said the FDNY determined that the combined efforts of Engine Companies 206, 218, 277, and 291, which all serve the same areas of Brooklyn and Queens, would be enough to offset the loss.

Sudnik said the Himrod Street firehouse's ladder company will still operate on a full-time basis. "There will be firefighters there 24 hours a day," Sudnik said.

Councilwoman Diana Reyna, who organized the protest meeting, said this was not good enough. "It is unfathomable that this particular firehouse has been selected. Why?" Reyna asked. "You do not compromise public safety."

Reyna, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, and their constituents said the neighborhood - with its abundance of wood frame homes that are especially vulnerable to fires and senior citizens in need of emergency services - would be dealt a devastating blow if the firehouse closes.

Sudnik admitted if Engine Company 271 closes, response times for the area it covers would jump from 3:20 to 3:40. Still, Sudnik said, even the higher figure is lower than the average citywide response time of over four minutes.

Lieutenant Eddie Boles, who represented the Uniformed Firefighters Association at the meeting, said the delayed response time would undoubtedly result in an increase of fatalities.

"The quicker you put water on the fire, the more property you're going to save and the more lives you're going to save," said Boles. "You take Engine Company 271 out of Bushwick and you're going to see people die.

"I can't tell you more clearly than that," Boles then told the audience. "People will die."

To stop the firehouse closing, Boles urged the community to mount a serious, all-cylinders protest by flooding 311, City Hall and FDNY with phone call and email messages opposing the proposed cut.

“It's not too late to force city hall to change its mind,” Boles said. "If the community does not get outraged, I'm telling you right now: they're closing that firehouse."

Reyna, Crowley and Maritza Davila, a district leader for the 53rd District and a longtime community activist, said they would work to save the firehouse.

"We're not going to allow this firehouse to close," said Davila. "We're going to do everything in our power to ensure this doesn't happen."

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