Last week, western Queens leaders and city Fire Department officials called for the city to reopen Long Island City’s Engine Company 261—which was shuttered by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2003—and ensure that safety services are keeping up with Queens’ development
In the past week, two construction-related accidents—collapses on the eighth floor of a Long Island City building under construction and the top floor of an Astoria building, where a worker was trapped for an hour—occurred in western Queens.
On Friday, Council members Jimmy Van Bramer and Elizabeth Crowley, state Sen. Michael Gianaris and representatives from the Uniformed Firefighters Association, Uniformed Fire Officers Association and Dutch Kills Civic Association expressed their concern that development in the area was outpacing essential services, which included a lack of firehouses.
The Long Island City Business Improvement District said that a total of 70,000 people live in the district that would be served by Engine Company 261 and approximately 9,000 new apartments will become available this year. Meanwhile, fire officials said that other FDNY companies have been forced to pick up runs to cover the area since the closure of the firehouse, and that it has become increasingly difficult for emergency responders to gain access to western Queens due to nonstop development, accidents and traffic. As a result, it has taken the FDNY 30 seconds longer to respond than in past years.
Since a number of Queens neighborhoods—such as Long Island City and Flushing—are constantly under construction, it’s urgent that the city—in response—upgrade the essential services to such areas. As one fire official pointed out, the more development comes to an area, the more people move in and, therefore, the higher the likelihood of emergencies.
And while it’s important for the city to create new schools and public transportation options in burgeoning communities, it’s equally important to provide additional emergency services and work toward improving traffic patterns that enable responders to get to emergencies quickly. The city should consider reopening Engine Company 261 in Long Island City, but also eye other spots throughout the borough where new firehouses might be needed to accommodate communities that are being built up.