Cobble Hill community leaders take action to get firehouse reopened
Community leaders are urging Mayor Bill de Blasio to reopen a Cobble Hill firehouse closed in 2003 due to FDNY budgets constraints, a community board member said.
Craig Hammerman, Brooklyn community board 6 district manager, sent a letter to de Blasio on Oct. 27 asking him to re-commission Engine 204, at 299 Degraw Street.
The mayor, at the time council member for District 39 in Brooklyn, was actively engaged in the protest to keep the firehouse running, Hammerman said in the letter.
“De Blasio was here with us when we came with pans and pots to protest the closure,” all-time Cobble Hill resident Barbara Solomon, 63, said. “He even got himself arrested.”
The Brooklyn Borough President in 2003, Marty Markowitz, also fought the closing. He filed a lawsuit against former Mayor Michael Bloomberg to prevent the discontinuation of eight firehouses around the city, four of them in Brooklyn.
According to court records, Bloomberg decided to eliminate the Cobble Hill firehouse because surrounding firehouses, like Engine 224 in Brooklyn Heights and Engine 202 in Red Hook, could respond within the same time frame. Representatives from these firehouses could not be reached for comment.
Bloomberg also said other residential neighborhoods around the city were more densely populated than Cobble Hill. However, Cobble Hill and its neighboring Carroll Gardens have experienced a rapid inflow of new residents since 2003. Date collected by Social Explorer shows that the population density of these neighborhoods has increased by more than 30 percent in the past 10 years.
Hammerman said community board members are asking de Blasio to consider that new development projects will cause an even more drastic increase in population. If Fortis Property Group is approved for re-zoning, it could build close to 1 million square feet of residential space at the location of the former Long Island College Hospital, Hammerman said in the letter.
“We are experiencing a lot of activity in the area. So we thought that we needed to take action before it is too late and before the city assigns somebody else to occupy the building,” he said.
After a long selection process, the city chose the Brooklyn Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra to occupy the space, Hammerman said. He also said the philharmonic was expected to move in last year but had to cancel the contract due to budget issues. Since the orchestra never used the property, it has been abandoned since the firehouse shut down.
FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer said the department reviewed the letter, but it is currently not planning to bring the firehouse back. The community board will wait for an official response from the de Blasio before taking further measures, Hammerman said.
Cobble Hill Association President Laurel Burr said she is ready to join the efforts to get Engine 204 back.
“Whether if we like it or not, we have to adapt to our new reality. Many new residents are expected to come, so the community would most certainly benefit from having the firehouse in Degraw,” she said.