2000-10-21 / Front Page

Residents Alarmed! ‘Someone’s Going To Die’

By John C. McLoughlin

Residents Alarmed!
‘Someone’s Going To Die’

Workers begin the construction of an outdoor cage to house Ladder Company 137 while renovations begin on the Beach 116 street firehouse. (Photo by Paula Montemorano)
Workers begin the construction of an outdoor cage to house Ladder Company 137 while renovations begin on the Beach 116 street firehouse. (Photo by Paula Montemorano)

Concern is brewing on the west end of the peninsula over the removal of fire engines from the Beach 116 street firehouse while renovations are being done to the floor. Earlier this week, Engine Company 268 was moved 24 blocks east to Beach 92 street, joining Engine Company 266. Ladder Company 137, also located at the Beach 116 street firehouse, is being placed in an outdoor cage presently being constructed on the block.

Residents are alarmed that without the engine company on Beach 116 street, the communities of Rockaway Park, Belle Harbor, Neponsit, Roxbury and Breezy Point will be left vulnerable to increased response time.

Palmer Doyle, a civic activist from Rockaway Park and a firefighter with the FDNY, added that the void of an engine company out of Beach 116 street is compounded by the work being done on the Gil Hodges-Marine Parkway Memorial bridge. Doyle explained that Ladder Company 159 from Brooklyn is a support unit that uses the bridge to get into the Rockaways. Due to repairs on the bridge, this could lead to delays that will also effect the response time of Ladder Co. 159.

"We would like the powers that be to take a good look at this situation and postpone the project until work on the bridge is completed," Doyle said.

When Doyle brought this issue to Councilman Al Stabile in early October, a letter was immediately sent to Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen. In the letter, Stabile said, "…this moving of the trucks at Beach 116 street would create a significant delay in response time to emergencies in these communities. It would mean that not only will residents’ lives be in danger, but that the volunteer companies will have to wait longer for city back up."

Stabile added, "The work to be done in the firehouse is not a priority. If the floors were collapsing, I would completely understand. However, since this is not the case, I urge you to halt the plans for the firehouse until reconstruction on the bridge is complete."

Stabile spoke to The Wave and said that in a follow-up phone call to Von Essen, the commissioner told him that rehabilitation of the Marine Parkway bridge was "not an issue" since most engine companies that support the Rockaways travel from the mainland of Queens, therefore using the Cross Bay bridge.

Doyle, who disagrees with Von Essen’s assertion, believes that officials of the FDNY must restudy the emergency needs of the Rockaways.

According to a Fire Department spokesperson, the repairs are expected to take four months, but did admit, "Things can go wrong." Similar projects have taken up to one year at other firehouses across the city.

The Fire Department does not expect there to be an increase in response time, although the spokesperson said a "one or two minute loss isn’t much."

Shaun Reen, another fireman who lives in the neighborhood, broke down the response times for The Wave. He said, "…the people of Breezy Point must wait eight to 10 minutes for the arrival of a ladder company in case of fire or emergency, with the second company coming from Brooklyn at a distance of five miles. The average FDNY response time in Queens is from four to five minutes. If L-137 (Beach 116 street) were busy at an alarm, the time frame becomes greater. You can see the danger here. Likewise, if L-137 were responding into Belle Harbor with L-121 (Beach 58 street) as the second ladder, the entire peninsula is left with the services of only one ladder (L-134 in Far Rockaway on the Nassau border) to cover a 13-mile stretch. In the event of a ‘working fire’, which would require the use of four engines and three ladders, the entire peninsula is left with the services of only two engine companies and no ladder companies. Both L-173 in Howard Beach and L-159 in Flatbush would have at least a five to 10 minute response time just to reach Rockaway (and that is if they are available). Then add the additional time to get to your house."

With the number of woodframe structures in Rockaway, these response times become ever so more significant.

"Someone’s going to die," Doyle said, "if this problem isn’t remedied quickly. This is our neighborhood and we expect proper emergency coverage."

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