The Newtown Pentacle

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Ladder 128

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Newtown Pentacle mailbox alert bleeped at me the other day, indicating that the local elected’s were planning a rally to save Blissville’s own Ladder 128 from extinction. Double booked, I feared that I might miss this event in the heart of things, but thanks to an offer of a ride from one of these very elected’s to the event, I made it there from my beloved Astoria just as the ceremony was beginning.

from jimmyvanbramer.com

On Friday, May 27th City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer held a rally with City Council Fire & Criminal Justice Chair Elizabeth Crowley, the Uniformed Firefighters Association and the Uniformed Fire Officers Association against the proposed closure of Ladder 128 in Long Island City. For over a century, Ladder 128 has been serving the City of New York in emergency situations, including playing an integral role in the rescue efforts during the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Ladder 128 serves the communities of Blissville, Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside and Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

According to a recent report, closing Ladder 128 would result in nearly 7 min response times, well above the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) four minute benchmark. According to NFPA studies, the increased response times lead to greater casualties and expanded property damage in emergencies.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Mr. Van Bramer of the NYC City council was the leader of the event, and acted as master of ceremony. Despite the terrific and sudden onset of summer heat on Friday the 27th, and proximity to the holiday weekend, a surprising multitude had gathered.

also from jimmyvanbramer.com

“In an emergency, every second saves lives,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. “Allowing response times to skyrocket is simply unacceptable. The Mayor must reconsider this dangerous proposal. As the population continues to grow in the area, this is not the time to cut services that protect our residents. I will continue to fight to keep Ladder 128 open for the safety of our local residents.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The trick, in my opinion, to understanding the function which the various fire companies serve the city is that while every unit has the same basic skill set, through practice and districting- specialties are either called for or evolve through day to day experiences.

The fire companies around Newtown Creek traditionally have some expertise in chemical and petroleum blazes, are experienced in warehouse and high rise situations, and are trained to handle everything from train derailments to fuel barge explosions. Given the immolations which typify the history of the area, this is logical and appropriate.

also from jimmyvanbramer.com

“Closing Ladder 128 will lengthen response times, potentially putting residents’ lives in danger. With this area experiencing a population boom, now is not the time to be making dangerous cuts to emergency services,” said Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Elizabeth Crowley of the NYC City Council spoke next. I’m led to understand that fire house closures are a personal and signature issue for her, which explained the clear ire she expressed at the Mayor’s proposal to shutter Ladder 128. It is not clear to me how the other companies in firehouse E 259 will be affected by the loss of Ladder 128, and whether or not they are similarly endangered.

In other words, I’m not sure if it’s just the unit or the entire firehouse which is on the block.

also from jimmyvanbramer.com

Out of the twenty fire companies slated for closure, the loss of Ladder 128 create the second longest average response time. The Fire Department released a report that estimates that arrival times for first responders will likely increase by more than a minute, from five minutes 31 seconds to six minutes 44 seconds, if Ladder 128 were to close.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m not entirely sure where the concept of Queens having an infinite capacity to cut municipal services arose in Manhattan, but we really are at the breaking point. Our hospitals, the few we have left, are suffering from overcrowding and lack of funds. The cops are overwhelmed protecting the vital infrastructure which distinguishes western Queens, and barely have the manpower to accomplish basic law and order. The FDNY is already contending with shrinking budgets and expanded responsibilities, coupled with new populations contributing to a population density the likes of which the area has never known.

from council.nyc.gov

As we approach the 10th anniversary of the attacks on 9/11, our FDNY remains as busy, strong and heroic as ever before- and the City needs to be there for them now just as they have been and always are there for us. On May 6, 2011, Mayor Bloomberg announced the Fiscal Year 2012 Executive Budget to include the closure of 20 fire companies. The Mayor’s proposal to drastically cut our FDNY services is dangerous, costly and a serious threat to public safety. Once again we need to come together as a community to fight these cuts and let the Mayor know we need our fire protection. Please contact my office to get involved 212.788.7381.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Several of the speakers pointed out the relatively low savings offered to the budget by threatening the 20 fire companies which Ladder 128 shares the threat of closure with. Some offered that there seems to be plenty of money to rename bridges and create bike paths available to the Manhattan elites. Whether that was rhetoric or actual, it certainly pleased the crowd of angry constituents who had gathered with them.

from nyc.gov, on February 4th, 2010

FDNY TO CELEBRATE THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF LADDER
COMPANY 128

Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano will join the officers and members of Ladder Company 128 in their quarters at 33-51 Greenpoint Ave. in Long Island City, Queens at 11 a.m. Friday, as they celebrate 100 years of dedicated service to the community.

Several veterans of Ladder 128 have become Chiefs at FDNY, including Assistant Chief Joseph Pfeifer, who is Chief of the FDNY’s Counterterrorism and Preparedness Center, and Deputy Chief Robert Strong of Division 11. Ladder 128 played important roles battling the Chiclet factory fire of 1976, a 10-alarm fire on the Brooklyn waterfront in 2006, and during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Last week, members of the company received a unit citation from FDNY for a February 2009 incident in which they rescued a man who was dragged and pinned by a tractor trailer after it was struck by a locomotive at Review Avenue and Laurel Hill Boulevard in Queens. Ladder 128, which shares quarters with Engine 259, had their firehouse renovated just last year.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The congresswoman was angry, and left no doubt as to her position on the matter.

also from jimmyvanbramer.com

“In a fire, seconds count. If we lose Ladder Company 128, the extra seven minutes it may take for another company to come to the neighborhood could be the difference between life and death. Let’s hope city officials take another look at closing Ladder 128. I know these are tough times, but our firehouses are the last places we should look to for budget cuts,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As always, my thoughts drift toward that sister of the stygian known as the brain blasting Newtown Creek. The notion of removing fire protection from anywhere within a 5 mile radius of this place is actually insane. The industrial base that surrounds it’s banks represents petroleum, chemical, warehousing. Every art of the industrial world- from power generation to sewage handling- is accomplished nearby.

Less than a mile from here is a home heating oil depot which stores and distributes an incalculable amount of fuel.

from queensvillagetimes.com

The firehouse, at 33-51 Greenpoint Ave. in Blissville, is one of four in Queens and 20 throughout the borough that have been targeted for closure by Mayor Michael Bloomberg due to budget cuts. Ladder 128, nicknamed “tombstone territory” for its proximity to Calvary Cemetery across the street, celebrated its centennial last year. It services the neighborhoods of Blissville, Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside and Greenpoint in Brooklyn.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a series of hellish immolations happened nearby. Once, the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge actually burned down. On the Brooklyn side, at the Locust Hill Refinery, oil tanks were shooting up into the air like rockets. Literal tidal waves of burning oil washed over the Creek and incinerated two FIREBOATS.

from wikipedia.org

Catherine T. Nolan (born March 12, 1958) is a member of the New York State Assembly representing the 37th Assembly District, which includes the Queens neighborhoods of Sunnyside, Ridgewood, Astoria, Woodside, Long Island City, Maspeth, Queensbridge, Ravenswood, Dutch Kills and Blissville.

Nolan has lived in her district for most of her life and graduated from the St. Aloysius R.C. School and Grover Cleveland High School. She received a B.A. degree (cum laude) in political science from New York University.

She was first elected to the Assembly in 1984. Nolan is a member of the Democratic leadership in the Assembly and has served as Chair of both the Labor and Banking Committee during her career. Although no longer on the Labor Committee, she has continued to push legislation which protects workers rights in New York State.

In January 2006, Nolan was appointed as Chair of the Assembly Standing Committee on Education. She is also a member of the highly influential Rules and Ways & Means Committee.

She ran uncontested in the 2008 general election and won the 2010 general election with 84 percent of the vote.
Nolan resides in Ridgewood with her husband, Gerard Marsicano, and son Nicholas.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Senator Michael Gianaris spoke next. He’s the elected who gave me the ride incidentally, and you have him to thank for me getting to this event in time to record it for your Newtown Pentacle. There some kind of blogging rule out there which says you have to acknowledge this sort of thing to eliminate conflicts of interest or something, otherwise you’re bad..

also from jimmyvanbramer.com

“Closing Ladder 128 would lengthen response times and harm the safety of western Queens residents,” Senator Michael Gianaris said. “Western Queens continues to grow and is in need of more fire protection services, not less. The Mayor must reconsider and keep Ladder 128 open.”

“In a fire or emergency, every second counts. That’s why our neighborhood firehouses, like Ladder 128, and the brave men and women of the New York City Fire Department are essential to the safety of our communities,” said Congressman Joe Crowley. “While budget cuts are necessary right now, there cannot be a compromise when it comes to providing lifesaving services. I urge the City to reconsider these closures.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Senator coincidentally suggested one of my pet issues in his statement.

I interpreted concurrence with my notion that while the future of Queens has been written to include vast new populations inhabiting former industrial areas, there seems to be very little thought given to the municipal infrastructure which will be required to maintain those agglutinations of citizenry. Development in Queens once followed the installation of sewers and train lines, rather than just being dropped into whatever open space that could be found. The hospitals and schools, fire houses and police stations, electrical and sewerage systems in western Queens are already inadequate- and don’t even mention the archaic subway stations.

from nysenate.gov

Michael Gianaris, was elected to the State Senate with over 81% of the vote and is the first Greek-American to be elected to office from New York City and has served his community and his state with unique effectiveness.

Senator Gianaris was elected to the State Assembly in 2000.

In the Assembly, Mike recognized the dysfunction of state government and has emerged as a leader on government reform issues. Mike has sponsored numerous measures to improve the efficiency and transparency of state government, including a proposal to reform the legislative redistricting process that the New York Times has called “the real key to reform” in Albany.

Most recently, when state government was brought to a screeching halt, it was Mike Gianaris who found the solution to end the stalemate. By recommending that the Governor appoint a Lieutenant Governor, Mike was able to end the logjam and and get the State Senate working again on behalf of New Yorkers.

Additionally, among his many accomplishments in the legislature, Mike authored important public safety measures, including the state’s first major anti-terror law after September 11th. His Energy Security Act, which has become a national model, enhances security at our State’s power plants and transmission centers. His Airline Passenger Bill of Rights, now in the process of becoming a federal law, ensures that travelers are treated with respect and dignity while on commercial airplanes.

Mike is also a fighter to protect our environment, particularly in the effort to reshape New York’s energy policy. He wrote the Clean Energy Law that encourages the private sector to utilize modern technologies to dramatically reduce pollution while increasing productivity. Mike also held Con Ed accountable when its blackouts hurt local businesses and families in our community. Thanks to Mike’s efforts, the energy behemoth was forced to pay restitution to those affected by its mistakes.

Born in Astoria, Queens to Nicholas and Magdalene Gianaris, Mike is a graduate of the New York City public school system. He attended Public School 84, Junior High School 141 and Long Island City High School before graduating from Fordham University, Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelors Degree in Economics and Political Science. He went on to receive his law degree from Harvard Law School.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Next up was Stephen J. Cassidy of the Uniformed Firefighters Association of the FDNY. This guy is some kind of speaker, I tell you. He’s a “union” guy, and speaks in a fashion which is blunt, emotional, and pointed.

Hearing him speak is what going to an old fashioned tent revival meeting must have been like.

from wikipedia

Stephen Cassidy is the President of the Uniformed Firefighters Association of Fire Department of New York firefighters.

Cassidy is a vocal critic of former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani’s record of response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

He charges that Giuliani’s reputation of a hero or as “America’s Mayor” is an undeserved myth. He has key appearances in the International Association of Fire Fighters’ video, Rudy Giuliani: Urban Legend, released on July 11, 2007 to fire departments across the U.S. The DVD rebroadcasts images of the collapsing Twin Towers. The video outlines New York firefighters’ complaints against Giuliani. In the video, Cassidy said, “The things that we needed to do our jobs even better, we didn’t have, because of his administration.” He added, “On the heroic memory of 343 dead firefighters, he wants to run for president of the United States. It’s a disgrace.” Many other present and former IAFF leaders and firefighters from New York City appear in the video. He faulted the 9/11 Commission for its treatment of Giuliani, “The 9/11 Commission gave Rudy Giuliani a pass, not asking him tough questions about what he knew, when he knew it or why he failed to provide respirators to firefighters and other first responders.” He said that the lack of respirators led to exposure of first responders to fatal or otherwise serious pathogens.

He has criticized the reduction of the number of firehouses in Brooklyn while up to 60,000 units of housing are planned for waterfront areas of Brooklyn.

In 2007, he sided with the Fire Department and the city of New York in a Federal lawsuit initiated by the Vulcan Society of black firefighters, which charged that the written entrance exams had disparate impact on minority candidates.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

You don’t hear this sort of oration much in the public sphere, although it was once ubiquitous. Combative, inflected with urban accent and patois, rife with gestural poses and dismissive facial expressions. This isn’t a lawyer talking, this is a working guy.

from ufanyc.org

The objectives of the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) are to:

    • Protect the rights of UFA members
    • Obtain better and safer working conditions
    • Secure adequate remuneration
    • Obtain the equitable resolution of grievances
    • Cultivate fellowship among its members
    • Foster the finest traditions of American citizenship

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Next up was Captain Al Hagan of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA), for which he serves as President.

from inthearena.blogs.cnn.com

…But it is very frightening that that the mayor of New York has announced the closing of 20 fire companies in the city and I am concerned that the impact on the security of our citizens—particularly in the event of another terrorist attack-would be devastating. The whole world knows that the Fire Department is one of the cornerstones of homeland security here in New York City.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Capt. Hagan, similarly a union man, brought the old time thunder to the podium.

from wikipedia

Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA) is a union for lieutenants, captains, battalion chiefs, deputy chiefs, medical officers and supervising fire marshals in the Fire Department of New York. Captain Alexander Hagan is the current president of the UFOA. Battalion Chief Jack McDonnell preceded Capt. Hagan. Peter Gorman was president from 1999-2007.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Next up was Bill de Blasio… and I must get this out of my system… who must be the largest man in the City of New York. When you stand next to the public advocate, and I am average height, it feels like you’re in third grade.

If we lived in medieval times, the public advocate would be King just based on virtue of his stature.

Holy moley, this guy is gigantic.

…glad I got that off my chest…

from pubadvocate.nyc.gov

On November 3rd, 2009, Bill de Blasio was elected New York City’s third Public Advocate. For the prior eight years, de Blasio served in the New York City Council where he fought to make City Hall more responsive and accountable to New Yorkers.

Bill de Blasio began his work in New York City government as an aide to Mayor David Dinkins. During the Clinton Administration, de Blasio was appointed Regional Director for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, where he served under former Secretary Andrew Cuomo. In 1999, de Blasio was elected to the School Board for District 15 in Brooklyn. In 2000, he managed Hillary Rodham Clinton’s successful campaign for U.S. Senate. The following year, de Blasio was elected to the New York City Council where he represented District 39 in Brooklyn for eight years.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

All kidding aside, the Public Advocate threw his protestations to the Mayor’s plan to close Ladder 128 and 19 other firehouses into the ring.

from pubadvocate.nyc.gov

“The list of fire company cutbacks shows what the Mayor’s budget really means for the safety of New Yorkers and their families. In my own neighborhood, Engine Company 220, which is a block from my house, now faces an estimated 30-second jump in response time. As Fire Commissioner Cassano has acknowledged, higher response times mean greater risks for New Yorkers. I will fight to keep every one of these fire companies open so that no family is put in harm’s way.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Pentacle HQ, I would reveal in accordance with some set of ethical blogging rules, lies deep within the districts of several of these powers and potentates. So does the Newtown Creek, and just in case my viewpoints and biases might be viewed as representing any groups or organizations which I belong to or am affiliated with, this is just me rattling on and does not attempt the former.

My wife sleeps in the area affected by this closing, and I’m pissed off about it as a citizen.

from qgazette.com

Known affectionately as “Tombstone Territory” due to the surrounding graveyard, Ladder Co. 128 was originally founded on Feb. 7, 1910 as Hook and Ladder Co. 78 on Greenpoint Ave in the town of Blissville. The name was changed to Hook & Ladder 128 on Jan. 1, 1913.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, as the E259 Firehouse is directly across the street from Calvary Cemetery, which longtime readers of this- your Newtown Pentacle- know I have a certain interest in, there’s a little more to the story of the place than just modern politics. Check out this report from the archives at nytimes.com on this firehouse, when it housed Long Island City F.D. Engine No. 2 during the reign of Battleax Gleason.

additionally, here’s a little nugget from Municipal journal and engineer, Volume 26, courtesy google books

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The insignia nickname for this unit, of course, is tombstone territory. Here’s their patch.

from fdnytrucks.com

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There are a series of rallies and marches planned, and I’ve heard rumors of a gargantuan protest meant to occur on June 3rd. Please check the websites of the various elected officials pictured or mentioned in this post for more news. As well, the web sites of the 2 unions bear watching.

Normal Newtown Pentacle policy on such matters is “it’s not good, it’s not bad, it just is”, however closing fire companies is definitively a very bad idea indeed.

from nypost.com

Chief of Department Edward Kilduff called the centennial a tremendous milestone for the firehouse, nicknamed “tombstone territory” thanks to its location across from Calvary Cemetery, one of the largest and oldest burial grounds in the country.

“This is one of the most diverse areas in the city,” Kilduff said. “You have everything here from high-rises to tunnels to rail yards. The commercial buildings are extreme challenges for anybody. A place like this really represents the heart and soul in the Fire Department.”

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