New Life For BCVFD’s Firehouse
Ten years after then-Senator Hillary Clinton visited Broad Channel and promised its volunteer fire department a new firehouse and eight years after Clinton and then-Representative Anthony Weiner allocated more than one million in federal funds for the project, Community Board 14 has begun the process necessary to actually get it built.
The firehouse project was beset by delays and by the city’s refusal to sponsor the new firehouse, arguing that the city’s fire department did not think the expense was necessary.
At this month’s CB 14 meeting, however, the Department of City Planning announced that the application for the firehouse has been certified. This starts the official Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) for approval of the project. Also necessary is obtaining a variance for the new facility to be built in a R32 zone, which is considered a residential district, even though the Cross Bay Boulevard site for the firehouse is on an empty lot adjacent to the American Legion clubhouse.
This is the second time the project has gone through the ULURP process, which gives the community a chance to have a say by going through the community board, the Queens Borough President’s office, the City Planning Commission and the City Council.
“It received a permit in 2004 and it expired in 2008 without being constructed. It needs to go through the process again,” said Brendan Pillar, a city planner from the Queens office of the Department of City Planning. “Hopefully, if approved, it gets the special permit and it can then get to the actual building.”
While it can take up to 150 days to complete the ULURP, CB 14 is cutting 60 days off the application by waving its right for a review.“The community board is sending a letter to the planning board that states it reaffirms its support of the last ULURP process,” said Jonathan Gaska, the district manager for CB 14. “That shortens the process. There’s no sense in doing it again. … It cuts off a couple of months.”
According to Gaska, part of the reason the prior permit expired was “procedure and red tape.”“One of the major issues was [the Volies] got government money from some major sources and the city had problems drawing down on that money,” said Gaska. He added, “Now we’ve got the mechanism to draw down and the community wants and needs it. Let’s move forward.”
CB 14 first approved the application, unanimously, in 2003 after seeing renderings by Howard Beach architect John Calcagnile. As reported in The Wave in November 2003, the plans call for a first floor that would accommodate the parking and maintenance of the apparatus, fire engines and ambulances utilized by the Volies. The second floor would consist of offices, meeting rooms, a bunkroom and training spaces. The new facility will also be used as a triage and staging area in case of heavy flooding in the community, which is bordered on two sides by Jamaica Bay.
In June 2004 then-Senator Clinton, after marching in the annual Queens County American Legion Parade in Broad Channel, visited the current firehouse located on Noel Road, which was built in the early 1900s, and promised her help in obtaining funding for a new facility.
In July 2009, a House/Senate conference committee passed the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill. In that bill was $1 million secured by Clinton to “improve the traffic flow on Noel Road, between Church and Cross Bay Boulevards, including the work necessary to demolish and reconstruct the firehouse facility in Broad Channel.” This was in addition to the funds provided by then-Congressman Weiner for a total of about $1.8 million, according to a spokesperson for Clinton at the time.
Next in the process the application goes to Marshall’s office for a 30-day review and hearings. After that it goes to the City Planning Commission for 60 days of review and hearings. The City Council may elect to review and hold hearings if it sees fit. If the application passes through all the steps without any problems, it is then sent on to the mayor for his signature.