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City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) visited Ladder 128, a Blissville fire company originally slated for closure under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s budget proposal, where he and the firefighters Tuesday spoke of the harm the action would have caused to the community and city.
“We should never have firehouses on the chopping block again,” Van Bramer said.
Ladder 128, at 33-51 Greenpoint Ave., was one of four in the borough and 20 in the city threatened with a shutdown in Bloomberg’s proposed budget. The company serves Blissville, Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside and Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Numerous elected officials, Community Board 2 members and firefighters’ unions representatives held a protest over the proposed closing.
Similar protests were held at the other three Queens firehouses facing closure: Engine 306, at 40-18 214th Place in Bayside; Engine 294, at 101-20 Jamaica Ave. in Richmond Hill; and Engine 328, at 19-19 Central Ave. in Far Rockaway. In the $66 billion budget passed by the Council at the end of June, all 20 firehouses were rescued.
James Smith, a firefighter at Ladder 128 and delegate for the Uniformed Firefighters Association for Greater New York, said the ongoing development in Long Island City, particularly the growth of high-rise hotels, has made keeping firehouses in the community open crucial. Ladder 128, which is adjacent to exits for the Long Island and the Brooklyn-Queens expressways, is also in a prime position to help those in car collisions and locations near the highways.
“We have many people injured and they weren’t killed thanks to the proximity of the LIE,” Smith said.
This is not the first time the greater Long Island City area has had its firehouses threatened with closure. In 2010, Ladder 116 at 37-20 29th St. in Dutch Kills was set to be shuttered due to a budget crunch, but later saved. Long Island City lost Engine 216 in 2003.
Van Bramer said it was unconscionable that firehouses are part of the “budget dance” and said the city must get to a place where it believes the firehouses are sacrosanct and cannot be cut.
“You can’t put a value on one life,” Van Bramer said.
The councilman thanked Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), the chairwoman of the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee, for saving the firehouse.
Jim MacNamara, a firefighter in Harlem who lives in Blissville, credited Ladders 116 and 128 staying open to Van Bramer, saying former Councilman Eric Gioia was not responsive to firefighters’ concerns about the closing of Engine 216.
“You want to talk about night and day difference, it is night and day,” MacNamara said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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