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Queens Chronicle

RHBA plans rally to support Engine 294

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Posted: Thursday, June 2, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 5:41 pm, Thu Jun 9, 2011.

   Richmond Hill Block Association members said at their meeting last week that they are launching an all out war against Mayor Bloomberg in an effort to keep Engine 294 in Richmond Hill open.

   The company, located at 101-20 Jamaica Ave., is one of 20 slated to be closed because of budget cuts, according to a list recently released by the city.

   “I don’t know how we could survive in a community like this with our 100-year-old wooden homes without the firehouse,” said Simcha Waisman, vice president of the RHBA.

   Members of the civic and other groups, including the Woodhaven Residents Block Association, are planning to hold a rally against closing the company on Sunday, June 5 at 1 p.m. The rally will be held outside the firehouse.

   “If you care about your homes, your family, you will come and tell your neighbors to come,” Wendy Bowne, RHBA president, said at last Wednesday’s meeting. “There’s nothing more important than the safety of your community. If we do not show a strong force, then the mayor will think we don’t care. And we care.”

   Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), chair of the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee, slammed the mayor’s budget at the meeting and said she is fighting to keep Engine 294 open.

   “Unfortunately it seems our mayor’s priorities are screwed up,” Crowley said. “This budget, if it went through, would pose serious dangers to the people of Richmond Hill, Queens and the City of New York.”

   Crowley, who has been hosting rallies against fire company closures throughout the city, said she plans to attend the June 5 event.

   She noted that Bloomberg had tried to close Engine 294 last year, as well as other companies.

   “We fought the fight last year, and we won,” she said. “I know firehouses are a priority for the council speaker. We definitely have support among colleagues.”

   The Richmond Hill facility has been shuttered twice before, once by Mayor Koch and again under Mayor Dinkins.

   It serves much of southern and central Queens, including Richmond Hill, Woodhaven and Forest Hills. Firefighters said they will often travel as far as Howard Beach, Brooklyn and Kew Gardens to respond to fires and assist other companies.

   Michael Simanowitz, who was chief of staff to state Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn before she retired in April, urged residents to fight for the company.

   “It’s so important we show the mayor this is something we’re concerned about,” Simanowitz said. “If we all come together and demonstrate a willingness to fight for our firehouse, we’ll be successful.”

   Simanowitz also said at the meeting that he plans to run for Mayersohn’s open seat representing the 27th Assembly District when Gov. Cuomo announces the special election.

   “We’re hearing the special election will be on Primary Day,” Simanowitz said.

   No other candidates have announced plans to run for the seat representing the 27th District, which includes parts of Richmond Hill, Kew Gardens, Briarwood, Kew Gardens Hills, Forest Hills and Flushing, as well as all of College Point.

   Also at the meeting, officers from the 102nd Precinct told residents they can take advantage of a number of programs to register their bicycles and cell phones in case of theft. For more information on these and other crime-prevention programs, call the precinct at (718) 805-3217.

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