2007-05-04 / Front Page

CB14 'Concerned' With Firehouse's Future Use

By Brian Magoolaghan

CB14 'Concerned' With Firehouse's Future Use
By Brian Magoolaghan

The debate continues over what to do with this firehouse in Edgemere, which was decommissioned by the FDNY since this photo was taken. The community board is opposed to the site being used for additional housing.

The debate continues over what to do with this firehouse in Edgemere, which was decommissioned by the FDNY since this photo was taken. The community board is opposed to the site being used for additional housing. The community board is throwing water on the city's idea of using the site of the decommissioned firehouse in Edgemere for more housing.

Jonathan Gaska, the board's district manager, says he made that clear to the Mayor's Office and other city agencies at a meeting of the firehouse's steering committee, which was held April 23 at City Hall.

So far, talks have focused on a vocational school or housing, but CB14 says it isn't at all interested in the latter and is "concerned" that housing is being considered.

"The long and short of it is I made it crystal clear that we would not support any form of housing," Gaska told The Wave after the steering committee meeting.

The community board's position in the matter is advisory and non-binding, which means the firehouse could still figure into Mayor Michael Bloomberg's New Housing Marketplace Plan, a $ 7.5 billion program to create and preserve 165,000 affordable housing units in the city by 2013. Gaska said the board was "deeply disappointed" last year when the Bloomberg administration added a 30 percent affordable housing component to the 1,600 new units slated for Arverne East.

The firehouse, which is located at 58-03 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, sits on a 60x100 foot lot. It is zoned R6 with a C2-4 overlay, which allows for a small apartment building, a lower building with high lot coverage or a commercial use. The site contains asbestos and was badly damaged by a squatter fire.

Dolores Orr, who chairs Community Board 14, recently wrote to Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler to say that, with regard to housing, enough is enough.

"Our community has done its fair share to help ease the city's housing crisis. It is our strong request that the discussion of any more housing in our district be taken off the table," she wrote. Orr said CB14 "is thankful" that the Department of Citywide Administrative Services removed the firehouse from the auction block, which keeps it - at least for the time being - from unrestricted sale.

"Community Board #14 supports the use of this site for a school/vocational training center or a community/recreational center and we strongly oppose any use for housing," said Orr.

Councilman Sanders has gained support for an as yet vague plan for a vocational school at the site, where people could receive training for construction jobs or, perhaps, the healthcare field.

"We're still in the process of looking at the firehouse and deciding what its best use is, including a vocational school," Sanders recently told The Wave. "The issue is what you can create and keep going."

Sanders added that he will be funding a feasibility study to determine the best use for the property.

Marshall gave support to a vocational school when she issued an official recommendation in February.

"The socioeconomic data for the Rockaway Peninsula show a high rate of unemployment and deficiency in required skills or job education for some sectors of the population. This property should not be placed on the auction calendar until sufficient time has been allowed to fully explore the feasibility of establishing an employment training center on the property" said Marshall's recommendation.

The firehouse steering committee, which is chaired by the Mayor's Office and vice chaired by City Councilman James Sanders Jr., includes representatives from Borough President Helen Marshall's office, CB14 and other city agencies. It has about five months to reach "an adaptive reuse and disposition strategy," for the property, according to City Planning Commission records.

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