Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Firehouses and Neighborhood Safety

Today's hearing on the existing NYPD-FDNY emergency response protocol stimulated some thinking on the relationship between firehouses and neighborhoods. The Alliance is all about the health of local communities and, therefore, we are always quick to point out that there is a natural affinity of interest between neighborhood business and the civic groups that represent homeowners and tenants. Where the Alliance has successfully defeated shopping centers and box stores it has been a result of true alliances with these civic organizations.

That is why we are quick to look for ways to help the civics on issues that may not, at first glance, seem to directly impact businesses. Firehouse closing is one such issue. When the decision is made to close a firehouse the safety of all neighborhood stakeholders is put at risk. Often, fires that start in local stores threaten surrounding residences. In reality, storeowners are as much neighborhood residents as the homeowners and tenants who live in the local area.

Which brings us to the Bloomberg decision in 2003 to close six neighborhood firehouses. The mayor did so arguing that, 1) the current siting pattern is our-of-date and 2) the loss of these fire companies would not compromise public safety.
The fact is that siting patterns were demonstrated out-of-date in a 1975 Rand Study that is itself out-of-date today. The mayor and his minions simply have no ideas, given the demographic shifts over the past 30 years, where houses should be located or indeed, if necessary, closed. We may, in fact, need to build new houses in certain areas where growth has been profound. Without this knowledge, and with the understanding that there is an intricate interdependency between companies in adjacent neighborhoods, closing any firehouse is simply an assault on neighborhood safety.

When are our Democratic candidates going to exploit this issue, crucial to so man communities? The fear should be that if Bloomberg is reelected the old Dinkins doomsday plan that had close to 30 firehouses in the crosshairs for closing will be resurrected.