Northeast Queens elected officials, civic leaders and residents rallied outside Engine Co. 306 Sunday to protest Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to close the Bayside firehouse.
The firehouse, which opened in 1924, is one of 20 in the city slated for elimination under the mayor’s budget proposal.
“Mike Bloomberg is putting a knife through the heart of Bayside,” said state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who organized the rally with state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside). “We’re not going to allow that to happen.”
Avella said if Engine Co. 306 is shuttered, fire companies in Douglaston, Auburndale and Flushing would have to service Bayside, which he noted has a bustling commercial strip on Bell Boulevard around the corner from the firehouse and one of the busiest Long Island Rail Road stations.
“We need this firehouse open,” Avella said. “We close it, we increase response times, we put lives in danger.”
The senator said he introduced legislation in the Senate that would call for community input and a community board review before a decision to close a firehouse could be made.
Braunstein said the mayor’s plan “is absolutely ridiculous and we’re not going to stand for it.
“I think it’s become clear that the wheels are officially falling off for the Bloomberg administration,” he said.
Braunstein said Bloomberg’s office said the current response time of four minutes 10 seconds would increase to six minutes if the Bayside firehouse is shut, which he said was unacceptable.
“We can’t just sit back and accept our safety being compromised,” he said, saying Engine Co. 306 was vital during last summer’s tornado and the December blizzard that crippled the city.
Alexander Hagan, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association and a Bayside resident, said that in the six minutes it would take for another fire company to reach a Bayside home or business, the person in distress could suffer brain death.
He also said the six-minute figure is “misleading at best” and the administration is “relying on average statistics.
“We feel City Hall is using the statistics the way a drunk man uses a lamppost — for support, not illumination,” he said. “I think the mayor’s a nice guy, but he’s listening to the wrong advisers.”
Hagan said if the firehouse closing goes through, Bloomberg would be a “modern-day Nero,” a reference to the Roman emperor who is said to have “fiddled while Rome burned.”
“Instead of Rome burning, New York City will burn as [Bloomberg] builds bike lanes,” Hagan said. “Public safety is like the bastard stepchild of city government.”
State Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) said Bloomberg’s plan to close 20 firehouses is just a “miniscule” cut when compared to the whole budget and said shutting the firehouses also has a psychological effect on a neighborhood.
“This firehouse really stabilizes this community,” he said.
Community Board 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece said the mayor is “making it dangerous to live in our homes.”
“I’m sick and tired of his highness, Mayor Bloomberg, shortchanging us in northeast Queens,” Iannece said, referring to the neighborhood’s schools being inundated with children from outside the area, “ticketing us to oblivion” on Bell Boulevard and now the plan to close Engine Co. 306. “He’s overstayed his welcome.”
The firehouse had been closed in 1975, but after three days of protests that shut down Bell Boulevard, then-Mayor Abe Beame reversed his decision.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2011 Community News Group
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