Unions, Elected Officials Cite Growth in Area Say Amazon’s Queens Arrival Means Shuttered Fire Co.
Amazon’s plan for a multi-billion-dollar headquarters on the Queens waterfront requires that the de Blasio administration re-establish a fire company that the Bloomberg administration closed 15 years ago, according to a broad coalition of elected officials and the city’s fire unions.
At a Dec. 19 rally, advocates made their case by invoking the Dec. 13 blaze in the adjacent Sunnyside section of Queens that destroyed several buildings and left five civilians and seven firefighters with minor injuries.
“We need to return Fire Engine 261 to what is already the fastest-growing community in the nation,” Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney said. “Firefighters have been asked to do more and more with fewer resources, and as the disastrous five-alarm fire in Sunnyside shows us, we cannot continue to put lives at risk. We must have an adequate number of personnel and equipment to serve this growing community—we need Fire Engine 261.”
Engine Company 261, which shared quarters with Ladder Company 116 until 2003, was disbanded as part of Mayor Bloomberg’s push for cost-cutting. The 22 members of the company were shifted to other units.
Engine 261 covered Roosevelt Island, which has also seen a significant spike in population over the last 15 years. Advocates for re-activating Engine Company 261 argue that the cost would be minimal because the firehouse is still occupied by Ladder 116.
According to the City Planning Department, the city’s population is projected to exceed 9 million by 2040, with Queens going from 2.33 million residents in 2020 to 2.41 million.
“The unions warned then-Mayor Bloomberg that closing firehouses was short sighted and a danger to our citizens,” Uniformed Firefighters Association President Jake Lemonda said. “Today we stand in the fastest-growing community in NYC, both residential and commercial populations are exploding! The danger is that there is not adequate fire protection for this community and its citizens.”
“Since Engine 261 closed, Long Island City has added thousands of new residents to Queens,” said Gerard Fitzgerald, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association. “Across the city, our firefighters are already doing more now with fewer resources than ever, and with Amazon coming into the neighborhood there is still no plan for a firehouse to serve this rapidly-growing community.”
Joseph Borelli, Chair of the City Council Committee on Fire and Emergency Management, said that the city had “a poor track record of planning for major developments over the last 20 years, which has resulted in historically low ratios of FDNY and EMS resources per capita.”
He has drafted several pieces of legislation which would require that the city work into its zoning process the potential impact of new development on firefighter and Emergency Medical Service staffing and resources.
“With this new Amazon campus, we will see an influx of tens of thousands of employees plus exponentially greater numbers of vendors and visitors, the volume of which will rival a city the size of Syracuse, N.Y.,” Mr. Borelli said.