Maspeth firehouse not a landmark — yet 1

“The Maspeth 19” are memorialized on the HazMat 1 rig at the 68th Street firehouse. Some residents would like to see the city do the same with their firehouse.

As a retired architect with some prestigious Manhattan firms, Steve Fisher of Maspeth knows a thing or two about historic buildings, and has worked on several of them.

Fisher watched from his office in Manhattan when the Twin Towers fell on 9/11. He would find out later that 19 men assigned to the firehouse on 68th Street in Maspeth were killed.

In a city that had just lost 343 firefighters, it was the largest number of deaths sustained by any FDNY station.

Back in 2013, he and his sister, Maxine Fisher, first tried to get the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to landmark the firehouse for its architectural significance — it now is 107 years old — and also for its historic importance.

“We’ve had a lot of support,” Fisher said in a telephone interview last week. “We’ve had tremendous support from the community and elected officials. We’ve got support from widows and loved ones of the men who were lost.”

But the Landmarks Commisson has said since 2013 that the building does not meet its standards, and that the events of 9/11 fall short of its 30-year criteria for historical event significance.

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

Losses from Squad 288 included Lt. Ron Kerwin and Firefighters Peter Brennan, Ronnie Gies, Joseph Hunter, Jonathan Ielpi, Adam Rand, Brian Sweeney and Timothy Welty.

Fisher said the effort is not without precedent — the station for Engine 305 and Ladder 151 in Forest Hills was landmarked back in 2014, one of about 50 in the city. He also has written about their quest on the website urbanarchive.org, including letters of support and photos dating back to its days as a volunteer company.

The commission, in an email to the Chronicle, explained its process and criteria.

“When LPC received requests to designate the Maspeth Firehouse at 56-29 68th Street in 2013, after careful review, the agency determined that it had not been identified in a citywide survey of firehouses as a priority for designation based on architectural merit, and that the events of September 11 were not yet within 30 years, the amount of time necessary to confer historic significance according to the Landmarks Law,” a spokesperson wrote. “We recognize the incredible bravery and sacrifice of emergency responders who gave their lives to help fellow New Yorkers during the horrible events of September 11.”

Fisher’s article and accompanying photos and documents can be found online at urbanarchive.org/stories/bd2CHLaXvt5.

(1) comment

sfisher

Michael Gannon, thanks for your article on the Maspeth Fire House, its relationship with 9/11, and the efforts to have the building designated a landmark.

I must say that I have always supported the Landmarks Preservation Commission; I applaud their stick-to-it-ness as it relates to defending their mission against the onslaught of real estate interests of the City. In the face of opposition to landmarking by property owners, which is readily understood, the LPC, like a good parent, has protected us from ourselves.

That said, I believe that the LPC has dropped the ball in the case of the Maspeth Fire House. To insist that the events of 9/11 do not constitute a historically relevant significance because thirty years has yet to pass is incomprehensible. Community Board 5, when it heard our presentation back in 2013, overwhelmingly supported the appropriateness of designating the building a landmark and went further to vote that the LPC should waive the 30-year rule.

After receiving unanimous support from elected officials, civic leaders, the community, the widows of fallen heroes and the Community Board, the LPC continued to deny consideration of landmark designation. It is truly baffling. What surprised me most about Mr. Gannon’s current article is that the LPC went on public record restating their position to uphold the 30-year rule. Does anyone reasonably think that it will take another ten years before the nineteen first responders from the Maspeth Fire House who died on 9/11 will deserve to finally be recognized for their heroism by preserving their home away from home? How heartless is that?

I can only hope that Gannon’s piece touches enough people that their voices will be heard and the LPC will right a wrong that’s already gone on too long. Landmark the Maspeth Fire House.

Steve Fisher.

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