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Op-ed: Say ‘No’ to the Fire Department’s plans to use 43rd Street location

June 1, 2014 Opinion: By John O’Reilly

The New York City Fire Department wants to combine multiple existing fire truck, light vehicles, truck and car parts, equipment and constructive storage, and administrative facilities into one location in Sunnyside at 39-34 43rd Street (between Skillman and Barnett Avenues, next to the handball courts in Lodati Park).

Community Board 2 will conduct a public hearing on the FDNY’s proposal at its next meeting on June 5th and is expected to vote that night on whether to approve the plan.

CB 2 must vote against approval of the FDNY’s proposal.

The proposed facility will not be used as a firehouse or a location for other emergency responders such as ambulances. The FDNY’s plan is to place on the lower level of the building and large parking lot an average total of 100 “spare and reserve” old fire apparatus consisting of engine/squad company trucks, tower ladder trucks, rear-mount ladder trucks, tractor-drawn aerial “tiller” trucks, and rescue company vehicles which are dispatched every day around the clock as needed “to replace front-line fire apparatus in fire stations which are out-of-service due to mechanical reasons or accidents, taken off-line for scheduled preventive maintenance checks, or placed into service to enhance the Department’s emergency response capabilities during special events or natural/ man-made disasters.”

The FDNY also wants to locate at the proposed 43rd Street facility an additional unspecified number of “reserve fleet” older vehicles to provide a “safety net” for the Department’s fire apparatus inventory. These fire trucks will not only be dispatched around the clock daily as needed to firehouses throughout the City, the trucks will also travel to and from the Department’s truck repair and maintenance shop located at 48-67 34th Street in Long Island City.

The FDNY also wants to locate at the proposed 43rd Street facility an unspecified number of Fire Department apparatus which have been involved in accidents and are being stored pending litigation and other fire apparatus which are pending decommission.

In addition to the more than 100 big, heavy diesel fueled trucks, the FDNY wants to move to the 43rd Street facility the Motor Vehicle Operator unit which is responsible for moving an unspecified number of light-duty vehicles (e.g., sedans, ambulances, suburbans, etc.) between a vehicle storage yard located at 50-02 55th Avenue in Maspeth, the small vehicle repair facility located at 30-03 Review Avenue and to/from Fire Department facilities citywide.

There’s more. The FDNY wants to use the 43rd Street facility as a storage site for a variety of tools, equipment and materials (e.g., tires, tire chains, truck and car motors, truck and car transmissions, appliances, cement blocks, construction materials, etc.) in support of Fire Department operations. In addition, the FDNY wants to locate administrative offices related to its fleet services and maintenance operations and facilities management at the 43rd Street location.

All the FDNY activities planned to be put on 43rd Street are currently performed elsewhere. The “spare and reserve” fire trucks are currently located at a facility on Paidge Avenue in Greenpoint, close to the Newtown Creek. This location experienced severe flooding during Hurricane Sandy, and only quick action by Department personnel saved the approximately 100 trucks from being destroyed.

When the City identified the 43rd Street building lower level and parking lot as a location not prone to flooding, the FDNY formulated plans to move not only the Paidge Avenue operations, but also to move the “decommissioned and accident” fire apparatus from the Duane Reade lot on 46th Street in Maspeth and the Motor Vehicle Operator Unit currently temporarily located at the Review Avenue repair shop.

The Motor Vehicle Operator Unit was formerly at the Department’s small vehicle repair shop located at 55-30 58th Street until December 2013 when the City sold the building and the function was temporarily relocated to the Review Avenue site. Tools, equipment and materials are currently stored in the repair shops and moving these items out to 43rd Street will create more room for repair work. The FDNY believes relocating related administrative offices to the proposed 43rd Street site will provide better management, efficiency and savings.

The facility application made by the FDNY does not state the level of activity on the grounds of the 43rd Street facility and surrounding area directly resulting from moving trucks, vehicles, truck and car parts, equipment and materials to and from the repair facilities and fire stations all over the City.

The FDNY does discuss the level of activity resulting from employees assigned to 43rd Street going to and from work throughout the 24 hour, 365 work days and concludes that it is not significant enough to warrant study, analysis or amelioration.

However, the numbers of employees who will be assigned to work at 43rd Street suggest that a substantial level of truck and vehicle movement activity will be taking place in and about the grounds. Sixty fire officers and fire fighters will be assigned to work at the 43rd Street facility, over the course of a 24 hour day, seven days per week. Twenty civilian employees will work over two shifts spanning the hours of 6:30 AM to 10:00 PM, seven days a week, for purposes of moving FDNY light-duty vehicles.

While proponents of the FDNY plan will tell you that the 43rd Street facility will be used for “dead” storage, it is incredible that sixty fire officers/firefighters and 20 civilian employees would be assigned to work seven days a week, around the clock at a location used only to house vehicles in “dead” storage.

The FDNY in its papers seeking CB 2 approval of the plan provides no data about the movement of diesel fueled heavy trucks and other vehicles on the grounds of or in and out of the 43rd Street facility. Surely, given the long history of performing this activity, the FDNY must have some idea of department truck and vehicle movement, and some basis for assigning 80 people to work at the location to provide vehicle movement and storage activity seven days a week.

In ignoring activity directly related to the primary reason the FDNY wants to acquire the 43rd Street facility, the FDNY’s papers state nothing about the impact these operations will have on area traffic, air quality and noise. Data, analysis and evaluation/amelioration of the negative impact on these important quality of life measures is required by the process for review of the FDNY’s proposed facility acquisition.

Perhaps most troubling is the FDNY’s statement that the proposed 43rd Street facility will have no impact on the children’s playground at Lodati Park. The FDNY makes clear that a major reason it wants to acquire the 43rd Street facility is the large outdoor lot that it can use for the 100 or so diesel fueled fire engines, ladder trucks, etc., comprising the “spare and reserve” fleet which are dispatched 24 hours a day, seven days a week as needed to fire stations throughout the City and the repair shop locations.

The truck area is adjacent to and a short distance down the hill from the children’s playground with nothing except an open, chain link fence between the two locations. Historical weather data shows that 28% of the time the wind blows, it comes from the north, northeast and/or northwest direction. Thus, diesel truck emissions launched into the air will be carried often directly into the children’s playground area. This situation is reason enough by itself for CB 2 to deny approval of the FDNY application.

Given the topography and wind conditions, there’s a reasonable belief that the air (and noise) pollution will carry to the game boards and sitting area near to the park house, the dog park area, the open black top field, the apartment buildings located on the south side of Skillman, and to nearby side streets across from Lodati Park.

The only mention of the impact of FDNY vehicle movement on the area near to the 43rd Street is an oral statement by the Department’s representative at the CB 2 Land Use Committee meeting on May 21st that Department vehicles would travel only in the direction to and from Northern Blvd along 43rd Street from the proposed facility. This representation is not made in any of the written documents submitted to CB 2. Regardless, nothing is said about how this condition will be enforced.

It’s hard to believe a police officer will ticket the operator of a Fire Department vehicle for traveling toward Skillman Avenue. Heck, the Police Department won’t enforce adopted laws prohibiting e-bikes and regulating commercial bicycles; does anyone really believe a Fire Department truck will get a ticket for driving the “wrong way” on 43rd Street? Even if only traveling to and from Northern Blvd is followed, it only relates to a small part of the problems associated with the proposal.

Residents of 43rd Street and nearby streets are unfortunately too familiar with day and night, seven day a week frequent movement of diesel fueled heavy equipment courtesy of the never ending East Side Access project. Should Sunnyside residents have to tolerate more heavy truck activity, day and night, seven days a week?

The FDNY’s proposal is silent about vehicle movement and impact on traffic, air quality and noise resulting from activities other than vehicle location planned for the 43rd Street facility, generated by the truck and vehicle parts activities, storage of equipment and building materials and the administrative office functions.

In addition, the FDNY in its proposals points out that the 43rd Street facility is desirable because it provides room for expansion to enlarge functions performed there and possible relocation of additional support activities. The FDNY’s proposal points out that the Department’s fleet has grown by 17% since 2001 which means that the number of vehicles held as spare and reserve will have to grow to provide adequate number of replacements. Again, the impact of growth at the 43rd Street facility is not mentioned.

CB2 Monthly Meeting

Significantly, the FDNY proposal does not address the requirement of the City Charter that agencies in deciding on location of facilities account for the fair distribution of the burdens and benefits associated with the location of City facilities consistent with the community’s needs for services and the efficient and cost effective delivery of services, with due regard for the social and economic impact of the facility on the area surrounding the site.

In addition to the negative impacts outlined previously bearing directly on the fair share obligation, the FDNY proposal does not satisfy the specific City Charter requirement, “To promote the fair geographic distribution of facilities, the [City] agency should examine the distribution among the boroughs of existing and proposed facilities, both City and non-City, that provide similar services, in addition to the availability of appropriately zoned sites.”

Prior to this proposal, the neighborhoods covered by CB 2 were home to most of the FDNY vehicle storage and repair facilities. The proposal for the 43rd Street facility will bring additional vehicle storage and repair activity from outside the CB 2 area to within the CB 2 neighborhoods so that almost all of the FDNY vehicle storage and repair activity will be within CB 2 (only three small satellite shops on Randall’s Island, Coney Island and Staten Island will not be within CB 2).

The FDNY proposal is silent about any efforts undertaken to locate the proposed facility outside CB 2 nor does the Department explain why in the years since Hurricane Sandy the need for a replacement facility for the flooded Greenpoint site was not included in the two annual Citywide Statement of Needs reports as required by the City Charter, which is designed to facilitate application of the fair share burden.

Everyone holds the Fire Department in high regard for the service it provides to residents. That admiration must not be the basis for CB 2 to ignore the requirements of the City Charter. CB 2 members should act in the best interests of residents of Sunnyside, consistent with the provisions of the City Charter, and therefore deny approval of the FDNY’s proposal for the 43rd Street facility.

(these are the opinions of John O’Reilly, not the Sunnysidepost)

email the author: [email protected]

44 Comments

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some guy

Let me guess…John O’Reilly lives on 43rd st, right across from the location.

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JOReilly

If an applicant appeared before the Community Board and when asked to provide data on the level of activity related to the most essential question under consideration, responded in essence, “We don’t want to tell you that because you might hold us to it”, would you expect the applicant to pass the laugh test never mind have the proposal approved by the Board? Among other low lights, the FD substantially understating the number of employees who will work at the facility compared with their written Fair Share submission. I’ll pay a dollar to any Board Member who can articulate the resolution and stipulations approved last night in advance of whatever is conjured up as the minutes of the meeting. Perhaps the sorriest group of all are the 9 or so CB 2 members who voted to “abstain” without any valid reason other than being gutless. I have it on good authority that Councilmember Van Bramer has stated to the Administration his opposition to the FD proposal, but have yet to see his position in writing anyplace. How soon can term limits for CB members be put in place and let’s make sure the requirement applies to incumbents.

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Woody Woodpecker

Joe Conley is a HACK he needs to go along with the rest of those do nothing cronies. where the F was Jimmy Van Bramer and Cathy Nolan?

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TMc

Ad I’m not surprised by the FDNY attitude…. it’s a huge city operation with a lot of clout and basically thinks they are entitled to do whatever they want… local residents be damned. It doesn’t surprise me the CB2 wouldn’t stand up to them and do what’s right for Sunnyside.

What other recourse do Sunnyside residents have to possibly stop this from happening?

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TMc

I could not attend either but am really annoyed that this proposal was approved. What is the point of a community board that does not take the community seriously when voting on these things. Sounds like a new board needs to be convened.

To the matter at hand, it’s a travesty that the FDNY would put this facility in a residential neighborhood without even a hint of due diligence beforehand. I guess the Sunnyside Gardens residents will just get screwed and have no recourse.

Was Jimmy Van Bramer at the meeting? What did he say/do? Is there a way to know which CB2 board members voted what way?

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Rick Duro

While I couldnt attend the meeting, a few SUDS folks went and they all basically said that the attitude given from FDNY was that ‘we are doing this with or w/o your approval’. Did others get the same vibe?

Was the question posed to the FDNY, “Would you want this mess across the street from your house? Your kid’s park?”

CB2 approved this thing without knowing how many trucks would be coming and going each day, and that the data wouldnt be provided by FDNY. There is something called ‘due diligence’. Why bother having the meeting in the first place is the outcome was pre-determined?

Way to go CB2 and Co. Not your finest hour by any means….

RD

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JOReilly

@Doglover. The documents do repeatedly state the property will be acquired, but research shows that the lower level and outdoor lot are listed For Lease by the broker. Given that the upper level tenant is expected to stay, my guess is that the City is proposing to lease the property. The C of O for the property shows 80 outdoor spaces for car parking. The owners are listed alternatively as Jgk Indstries (not a typo) or JCK Indusries but I can’t find info on either LLC so far.

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doglover

JOReilly – Do you know if the FDNY is going to purchase or lease the property? At what cost? From whom? Reading through the documents you so kindly posted, all I can see is the word “acquire” Maybe this information would help opponents propose alternate uses or even find some sweetheart deal or conflict of interest going on with the current owners. Keep up the good research work!

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Sunnysider

Great Op_Ed. All points are valid. My original concern was the parking that FDNY would take. Every FDNY facility I know reserves like a block or two for “FDNY Only” and “Authorized Vehicles Only” placards. Reading hte Op-Ed I’m now also concerned about noise, and traffic. The idea of a community garage is great but I think it’s not a city owned structure (or is it?) at moment so it will not happen.

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JOReilly

The link below is to documents regarding the NYFD’s proposal for 43rd Street filed with Community Board 2. There are three documents: the NYFD’s slide presentation; a letter to the Borough President; Narrative from the FDNY’s application which includes the Fair Share analysis required by the City Charter. Not every page is included; I did not camscan pages that appeared duplicate or irrelevant. Apologies for the quality and possible duplication; my “original” copy is an image on an iPad which many times required two pics for a page since the documents are on 14 inch (legal size) paper. The yellow markings are mine.

https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B4Bapwv7OwL7b1VtRC1Gc0huWXM&usp=sharing

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JOReilly

Images showing the current status of the interior and exterior portions covered by the NYFD plan (taken from its proposal) are posted to the Google Group page below along with a link to the CB 2 page for Thursday evening’s agenda (Sunnyside Community Service offices, 43-31 39th Street, Sunnyside, 7 PM). If you intend to speak, I suggest arriving a few minutes early to be sure you get a chance to sign up.

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!msg/sunnyside-issues/cdO7F_H9OS4/CcJATQIYXrwJ

Reply
Rikki

a MONTHLY ONLY Parking garage makes to most sense…..how many cars would it hold

100 at $75 = $7500 mo revenue guaranteed!!!!!

But they said 100trucks which means at least 200 cars….$15,000 revenue a month….that should cover all costs….and it wont be open to the public so the there would be minimal extra traffic or noise

It would free up lots of spaces for visitors and people who want to shop on the northside.

Reply
Reed

Let’s hope the potential arrival of a FDNY “fleet warehouse” formerly located in an industrial zone, stirs up more community opposition than the Aluminaire House proposal. Go to the meeting on Thursday or contact CB2.

Community Board 2
43-22 50th Street
Woodside, New York 11377
(718) 533-8773
(718) 533-8777 FAX
[email protected]

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doglover

Perhaps our City Councilman could allocate some funds for an alternative use for the space – a small business industrial space for the likes of the E-bike guy and the elevator guy that everybody seems so concerned about? Maybe a bike repair shop, flea market space, art studios? People who can pay their own way. Anybody know what the interior spaces are like? Could they be music studios, industrial kitchens or other uses? Re-purposing?

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Dorothy Morehead

If I speak out at the board meeting, I lose my vote. I intend to vote against it and I encourage everyone to come to the meeting on Thursday to express their opposition. Posting here will not count.

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Ally

Our community has 2 public parks. That number is low by city standards. We should NOT be putting one of them at risk.

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MIA

Where is jimmy van brammer thes days. See him on tv all the time but he never speaks up on difficult neighborhood issues.
Jimmy your community needs you. Now! You are starting to forget about us and we don’t like it.

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43rd street resident

This is too close to people’s houses.
Dorothy Moorhead handles environmental issues for CB2 .
Dorothy what are your thoughts?

Reply
45th and Skillman

Well written. Thank you for taking the time to lay this all out. Deciding what to do with that property is a separate issue from what shouldn’t be done. The FDNY plan shouldn’t go forward.

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Melissa

childrens playground/farmer’s market/dog run + 24/7 firetrucks = recipe for disaster

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Sarah

CB2 – the comments here express the distinct wishes of the community’s preference to relocate this to a nonresidential area. Voting against our wishes will demonstrate you’re out of touch with the community and thus completely useless to us.

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JOR

What does Jimmy Van Bramer, Cathy Nolan, Mike Gianaris, Melinda Katz, etc think about the Fire Department’s plan to turn 43rd Street into a 100 plus active 24×7 truck garage right next to the Lodati Playground and bringing in 80 plus employees to Sunnyside? These folks have lots to say about a lot of things, how about taking a position on something that really matters to people in the neighborhood.

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The Grimster

Oh Hell NO! I live right across the street I say we put it in front of Joe Conley’s Residence.

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Anonymous

@Lurtz…Thanks! I have an opinion: I AM AGAINST IT!

Levar Burton help meeeeee!

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I am elderly

I am afraid if I start reading this I will not make it to the end. Too long! Edit and you will make your points better. I can’t read this Moby Dick of editorials. You sound like my kids who call me up and want to keep talking and talking. Oy Vey!!! I got my knitting circle happy hour in 45 mins!

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Da Real Hipsta Thugg

Another lame imposter Hipster Thugg comment at 4:43

Its a pity some people can’t think for themselves and must latch onto someone elses online persona just to make a comment. I feel sorry for you, man.

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Oldschool Sunnysider

WONDERFUL!!!!
QUESTION: Where will the FDNY workers park?
ANSWER: All over Sunnyside Gardens.
The neighborhood will be awash with cars and trucks with “FDNY” Placards taking up spaces from RESIDENTS AND HOMEOWNERS.
Make the building a Parking Garage for SUNNYSIDE RESIDENTS ONLY.

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Lurtz

@PlainSpoken

TL;DR: FDNY claims that the lot will be used for “dead” storage. Meanwhile they plan to use it for numerous on-going services that will pollute the air and make constant noise. Also decrease parking and have 80 people constantly working there 7 days a week.

I hear Reading Rainbow has reached its funding via Kick Starter. Soon you may actually be able to read such an article.

Reply
Ann

Thanks for an incredibly informative Op-Ed. I will attend the June 5 Community Board meeting and everyone opposed to this should attend too.

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Anon

storage lot with possibility for toxic leakage should NOT be adjacent to a children’s play area. It’s not a question of NIMBY, it’s concern for the long term health of the children. There must be a better choice for storage of the vehicles/old engines/tires/equipment etc.

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WavyDavy

I love the idea of a parking garage. The firetrucks need to be in a more industrial area.

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Kingkong

No, I think it is appropriate that the community gives back to the FDNY. They do so much for us and the community. I think it would be selfish to make it into a parking garage.

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Anonymous

I agree with eurozone, re-creating the space as a neighborhood parking garage for residents would be most welcome.

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Rick Duro

Excellent op-ed. Diesel exhaust emanating throughout the area, trucks coming to and fro at all hours, fewer available parking spots, not to mention the poor folks that live across the street…Bad idea. Put it in an industrial area.

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Kramden's Delicious Marshall

The board will vote whatever way the monied interests tell them to vote. Residents be damned. Well written op-ed.

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Eurozone

Agreed.

And the ALTERNATIVE use for this property should be a community parking garage ONLY for Sunnyside residents. Including a Small fee and parking pass and 24hr monitoring.

No more parking problems.
No more complaining about the farmers market.
No more idling and double parking.
Reduced number of thefts and vandalism.

Boom! Get it done!

#onlymakessense

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