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Queens Chronicle

Fire engine co. shuts down overnight service

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Posted: Thursday, January 22, 2009 12:00 am

An FDNY unit serving parts of middle Queens shut down its overnight operations on Saturday — a decision that some in the city fear will place residents at risk.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) spoke at a rally on Friday outside City Hall opposing the nighttime closure of Engine Co. 271, located along the Ridgewood-Bushwick border.

“The thought of closing firehouses during the night, the time of greatest vulnerability, is unacceptable,” Crowley said, following a meeting of the council’s Fire and Criminal Justice Service Committee.

The city announced in November that it would eliminate the night shift, from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m., of four engine companies. Engine Co. 271 is the only one that directly impacts Queens.

The city has also eliminated the Governor’s Island Fire Protection Unit, previously assigned to the 172-acre island in New York Harbor.

Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said the reduction in services was necessary to meet an $8.9 million agency budget cut due to the city’s financial crisis.

“These are difficult times and they require tough choices,” Scoppetta said in a prepared statement.

Crowley isn’t the only official to oppose the decision. Community Board 5 voted unanimously against the closure in December and has asked the city to reconsider.

In particular, the board expressed its concern with the effect of the closure on Wyckoff Heights Hospital, located one block away from the engine company in Brooklyn. “Engine Co. 271 would be the first responder to any emergency at the hospital,” wrote Vincent Arcuri, chairman of the board, in a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “There aren’t any engine companies close enough to this critically important hospital to compensate for any closure of the engine.”

However, a spokesman for the FDNY highlighted that Ladder Co. 124, which shares a firehouse on Himrod Street with the engine company, will remain in continual operation. The department believes the closures will have minimal impact.

The FDNY conducted a detailed study considering a variety of factors, ranging from response times to workload to geography, when deciding which companies would be affected. “Our goal … is to minimize the impact these reductions could have on our ability to continue protecting and serving all New Yorkers,” Scoppetta said. “I believe we’ve accomplished that, especially given these trying fiscal times.”

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