Maspeth firehouse gets landmark study 1

Maspeth residents may be making progress in their effort to have the 68th Street firehouse landmarked in memory of its 19 firefighters who were killed on 9/11.

In Maspeth, residents are seemingly as protective of their firefighters as New York’s Bravest are of them.

For more than a decade, residents and community leaders have been attempting to get the 68th Street firehouse, built in 1914, to be recognized by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission in honor not only of its architectural importance, but its place in American history.

Nineteen firefighters assigned to the station were killed responding to the attacks on the Twin Towers on 9/11, the highest toll at any firehouse in a city that lost 343.

In a letter to Councilman Bob Holden (D-Maspeth) dated Nov. 25, LPC Chairwoman Sarah Carroll said the commission will take up the case again in a new round of evaluations of city firehouses.

Squad 288 lost Lt. Ronald Kerwin and firefighters Peter Brennan, Ronnie Gies, Joseph Hunter, Jonathan Ielpi, Adam Rand, Brian Sweeney and Timothy Welty.

Hazmat 1 lost firefighters Dennis Carey, Martin Demeo, Thomas Gardner, John Giordano, Jonathan Hohmann, Dennis Scauso and Kevin Smith; Battalion Chief John Fanning, Capts. Thomas Moody and Patrick Waters; and Lt. John Crisci.

In the past, proponents of landmark status have been told that the building itself is not architecturally remarkable; and that for consideration of historical events such as the Sept. 11 attacks, rules and regulations call for the passage of 30 years.

When Holden found that he could not move the issue through legislation — it would take action from the mayor — the councilman wrote to Mayor Adams back in October, urging him to direct the LPC to act.

“Considering the building itself is historic and the personnel played such a significant role on one of the most historic days in United States, I ask that the LPC awards landmark status immediately,” Holden wrote in the letter dated Oct. 3.

The councilman pointed out further that residents and civic and elected officials from the area are just about unanimous in their support of the measure.

“On September 11th each year, large crowds still gather at the Firehouse to remember all those who lost their lives on this day. Families of the deceased bring young children who never met their deceased relatives. The firehouse still plays a role in the lives of everyone who lost a loved one that day.

“By landmarking the Maspeth Firehouse, the city will be acknowledging the sacrifice of uncommon heroes and a historic building that has stood for over a century. Landmark status would be a positive message to the next generation of New Yorkers that our city truly ‘Never Forgets.’”

Maspeth native Steve Fisher, a retired architect, and his sister, Maxine, an author and writing instructor, have been pushing the cause from the start.

“It seems encouraging that Landmarks seems to be on the case, at least,” Steve Fisher told the Chronicle upon learning of the LPC’s letter to Holden. “Of course, the hope is that they come around to determining that 21 years is long enough to be of historical significance.”

And Fisher, from a professional standpoint, believes there is more than historic value.

“I think there is something to be said for its architectural significance, just by how long it has been in service to the community,” he said, acknowledging that the same could be said for many old fire stations in the city.

He admitted to being frustrated over the lack of success over the years.

“Bob Holden stepped up,” he said.

Maxine Fisher said the firehouse has a role in her upcoming book about growing up in Maspeth.

“There is a chapter about the Maspeth firehouse both from my early childhood, the many times I was taken there by my school, and, jumping ahead, our effort to get it landmarked,” she said.

“Thirty years seems terribly long. We’ve been trying to convince people that it’s the right thing to do.”