2008-12-05 / Letters

Asks Bloomberg For Help

The following letter was sent to Mayor Michael Bloomberg in response to the city's refusal to move ahead with the volunteer organization's new firehouse, which was funded largely by the federal government.

Dear Mayor Bloomberg, My name is Mo Sartor and I am an active member/firefighter of the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department and Ambulance Corps and am writing to ask for your assistance with an urgent matter that appears to be lying dormant in one of your Administration's offices. Approximately 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, September 16 your office received and signed for a certified/return receipt letter from the president of the Department, Edward O'Hare. This letter contained an appeal to you to assist in cutting through the red tape that has, once again, delayed the movement of our project for a much needed new firehouse/multi-purpose community center. To give you some background of our Department, we are a 501(C)3 notfor profit organization that relies solely on door-to-door fundraising, grants from politicians and from the State and has always been a 100 percent volunteer organization. The Department started in 1905 as a bucket brigade to help minimize property loss due to fires in our small Jamaica Bay town. In 1907, this brigade was formally organized into the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Association under its first chief, Edward H. Schleuter. The current firehouse, at 15 Noel Road, was opened in the summer of 1908. We have been serving the community from this location ever since. For the 102+ years the BCVFD has been in service we have created close working relationships with local FDNY companies, as well as the many volunteer companies from Nassau and Suffolk Counties. We are also dues paying members of many organizations, such as the Southern New York Volunteer Fireman's Association, the Fireman's Association of the State of New York and, along with the nine other volunteer fire departments in the five boroughs of New York City, are members of the Volunteer Fireman's Association of the City of New York. More than 12 years ago the Department purchased a parcel of land on the north end of Broad Channel, which is planned to be the future home of a much needed new firehouse/ multi-purpose community center. The idea came from a 1993 study we conducted for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The study showed that the community needed a new, all-purpose emergency management center that could be quickly put on-line in case of a hurricane or other emergency situation. FEMA wanted a triage center, a place that its workers could use as a control center and did not care if we also used it as a firehouse. Five years ago, Senator Hillary Clinton came to Broad Channel for a ceremony commemorating the Korean War. Officials from the BCVFD spoke with her about our dilapidated firehouse and took her on a tour of the facility. I can attest, as having been present, that she was shocked at the poor condition of this 100-year-old building and promised to help us. She supported the transportation bill in the Senate. In March of 2005, Congressman Anthony Weiner stunned the 100th Anniversary Dinner of the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department with news that both he and Senator Hillary Clinton had come up with $1 million to build a new firehouse on Cross Bay Boulevard to replace the 100-year-old Noel Road facility. At that time, Congressman Weiner warned those in attendance that the allocation of the money in an omnibus transportation bill would only be the first step in a long road. As you will note in the package mailed to you, this bill was passed to appropriate the necessary funds to us, with the NYC DOT acting as the pass-through agency. The United States Congress subsequently voted this bill into law in 2005. Now, however, three years later, after meeting all criteria, that road appears to be blocked by the city's Department of Transportation (DOT) and we (the BCVFD AND the Broad Channel community) fear that the money will be lost to us forever. We were recently informed by City Councilman Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. that the DOT would probably not file the required TIP [Transportation Improvement Plan], killing the project for good. Councilman Addabbo promised to set up a meeting between DOT and our Department this past summer. This did not come to pass, as we were just blown off all summer with excuses and stalling tactics. While the DOT refuses to provide any information about its refusal to file the necessary papers, we have heard a number of rumors. We have recently heard that they didn't want to be involved with the project because they were afraid of potential cost overruns and they didn't want to be responsible for them. Next we heard that the FDNY decided that it didn't want us to have a new firehouse. Lastly, we are hearing that there is a vendetta between you and Anthony Weiner over the election and that you do not want Weiner to get credit for the new facility. We have been assured all along by the Department of Design and Construction (DDC), the agency that had been chosen as the project's city sponsor, that there would be no problem; that the two agencies had worked together many times and that the TIP was a foregone conclusion. Unfortunately, this is not true, as our project has been brought to a halt because the Department of Transportation is refusing to file the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) application with the Department of Design and Construction. Officials at the DOT refused to return our calls, letters and emails. In this time of economic turmoil, cost is the number one concern. As you will note when reading this bill, this project comes in at ZERO cost to the City of New York and will use cutting edge green technology. I trust the latter rumor is just that and that you will review this information with the sound business sense you possess. In the interim, we wait and wonder why the City of New York will not allow us to use federal funds to improve the quality of life for all Broad Channel residents. The bottom line is that the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department is currently at the mercy of bureaucrats in your administration who: 1) Do not care; 2) Can not be bothered; 3) Refuse to discuss the issue; 4) Hide behind their desks; or 5) cannot be bothered to return calls to anyone. As a member of the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department AND resident of Broad Channel, I urge you to help cut through your administration's red tape, review the facts of our proposal and approve the filing of our application with the Department of Design and Construction. With the exception of an unwanted media circus, which has unfortunately started, you are the last hope for Broad Channel to be able to maintain a department that has been serving it for more than 102 years. Thank you, in advance, for your prompt attention to this very urgent matter. It is greatly appreciated by all of the residents of Broad Channel! Please feel free to contact Chief Dan McIntyre or President Edward O'Hare with any questions, comments or concerns. I believe their contact information is included in the package that, again, was delivered to your office and signed for on Tuesday, September 16 at approximately 11:00 a.m. If you require anything further of me, please feel free to contact me directly at any time.

MOE SORTOR

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