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Former firehouses on auction block - Outraged locals protest at Borough Hall hearing

Borough President Marty Markowitz is poised to set off some alarms about the city’s sale of Engine 204. After a lively public hearing on the subject at Borough Hall last week, advocates for the shuttered firehouse at 299 DeGraw Street are predicting that the Borough President will be firing off a strongly worded letter to the Department of City Planning, showing his displeasure at putting the century-old building on the auction block. Several Carroll Gardens residents joined the cacophony of outrage at the hearing to address their concerns about the sale of Engine 204, which hasn’t berthed a fire truck in over three years. Citing economic constraints, the FDNY shuttered Engine Company 204 and a handful of other fire companies in the spring of 2003. Several elected officials, including City Councilmember Bill deBlasio and Millman, were arrested as they tried to block the city from officially shutting Engine 204 down. Late last year, the city announced its plan to auction off the property, a move that hosed down any hope that the firehouse would be re-opened. But, before the city could put the property on the auction block, it has to go through a Uniformed Land Use Review Procedure. Last month, Community Board 6 unanimously voted against the sale of Engine Company 204, instead demanding that the property should be taken off the auction rolls and re-opened. The board argued that looming and existing development in the area all but demands that the firehouse stays open. The next phase of the process took the city’s request to Borough Hall. A spokesman for Markowitz’s office said that the Borough President has until February 10 to respond to the city’s request. The Borough President is also scheduled to respond to the sale of a former firehouse on Wythe Street in Greenpoint. A hearing on the Wythe Street property was held the same day Engine Company 204 was discussed. Markowitz has until February 9 to fire off a letter about Whyte Street. Based on Markowitz’s past actions regarding the closing of Engine 204, many believe that the Borough President would ask the city the same question he’s asked before: “Where’s the fire.” “I call on this administration to postpone or suspend its decision to sell the closed firehouse properties, so that we can reconsider the potential impacts their absence will have on our growing communities,” Markowitz said in a press conference last year. “In Greenpoint-Williamsburg in particular, recent re-zoning will add some 10 to 20 thousand new residents in the coming years, which could endanger public safety and leave us spending more money down the line to develop another property for the same use.” The city, however, seems adamant about washing their hands of Engine 204. “We’re going to sell that building,” Bloomberg told reporters when asked about the sale of the property in November. His comments came just before he snipped the ribbon on the new state-of-the-art EMS Station 32 at 347 Bond Street. “You can’t have a firehouse on every block.” Bloomberg added that although the firehouse has been closed, the FDNY “never got rid of any engine companies or downsized the department.” “We just moved them to areas were where they could get to places where they are needed quicker,” he said. “Take a look at a map of this city over the last 100 years, fifty years, twenty years and ten years and you can see that the population keeps moving. We have to move our equipment along with it.” The city doesn’t have to adhere to Markowitz’s request to re-open Engine 204. His recommendation, just like Community Board 6’s, is advisory in nature, officials said.

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