2009-01-02 / Editorial/Opinion

To BCVFD, City And FD Are Zeros, Not Heroes

When Hillary Clinton, soon to be our new Secretary of State, came to Broad Channel several years ago for a Korean Veterans Memorial ceremony, she took one look at the 100-year-old firehouse used by the community's volunteer fire department and immediately promised them help in building a new facility. Clinton and Congressman Anthony Weiner eventually kicked in nearly $2 million in funding as part of the Omnibus Transportation Bill. The volies were ecstatic and went ahead with planning, hiring an architect and beginning the difficult paper trail to actually get the money. Because the money was part of a transportation bill, the city's Department of Transportation had to vet the project, and that is where the problem lies. Both the DOT and the city's fire department have nixed the new firehouse. Why? The city says that it believes that the project will cost far more than the $2.6 million budgeted for it. City officials say that the new firehouse could cost as much as $5.9 million, and that the city would be responsible for the shortfall. The volies dispute the city's estimate, however. The real problem seems to be that the fire department does not want the volies to have a new firehouse. In fact, it seems that the fire department would rather the volies go away. "The FDNY already provides more than adequate coverage in that area. Any additional funds allocated for fire protection in the city, especially in these difficult economic times, would best be utilized by the FDNY," a department spokesperson told the New York Times recently. The fact is, however, that the FDNY's coverage in the island community is marginal at best. The nearest trucks are on Beach 95 Street in Rockaway and in Howard Beach. The nearest ladder units are on Beach 116 Street and in Howard Beach. The volies are on the spot not only for fires in the community, but for ambulance runs on busy Cross Bay Boulevard, especially in the area of the wildlife refuge, where accidents often happen. The volies are not asking the city for money, but only for its approval. The city has demurred. In this case, the city and its fire department are zeros, not heroes to the people of Broad Channel.

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