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Anderson Cooper's Firehouse Sounds Alarm Bells for Greenwich Village Preservationists

By DNAinfo Staff on February 2, 2010 8:19am  | Updated on February 2, 2010 8:13am

The Fire Patrol station purchased by Anderson Cooper for $4.3 million.
The Fire Patrol station purchased by Anderson Cooper for $4.3 million.
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Nicole Breskin/DNAinfo

By Nicole Breskin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

GREENWICH VILLAGE — Anderson Cooper's $4.3 million purchase of a  firehouse has set off alarm bells in the Village, and local preservationists are hoping the Landmarks Preservation Commission will stop him from making any renovations that will reduce the building's historic value.

Andrew Berman, of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, has been pushing for years to have the 1906 building landmarked by the commission. That designation would prevent Cooper from tearing the building down or altering its façade.

He would also need to go before the LPC to have any construction, alteration or renovation plans approved.

Last week, Berman announced that the firehouse qualified for the State and National Register of Historic Places, a boost to his local fight to have it preserved.

But the city's designation imposes tougher restrictions.

“The register does offer tax benefits and other financial incentives to protect the Fire Patrol station,” said Berman. “But a private owner could choose to tear it down and alter it in whatever way they want.”

Berman said he believes Cooper intends to preserve and restore the façade, but a future owner might want to make substantial changes.

Elisabeth de Bourbon, a spokesperson for the LPC, confirmed the firehouse is being considered for landmark status, but did not have a timeline for approval.

Former fire officers who lived at the station are also worried about Cooper's plans.

“I’m deathly afraid he’s going to take it away and make it into some sort of brownstone townhouse,” said Arnie Roma, who once worked there.

“It’s one of the most historic buildings in the fire service. If he’s going to buy it, he should keep it as much like a firehouse as possible.”

Roma has campaigned for three years to prevent the building's sale in the hope that the station would be restored to its former glory. He said he has twice reached out to Cooper to no avail. Neither Cooper nor his architect returned calls for comment.

“I hope he hears me and looks after us,” he said. “It would be devastating if he doesn’t.”

Called Fire Patrol 2, the building was one of three Fire Patrol stations — not part of the city’s Fire Department — that existed before there was 911 and municipal-governed fire fighters.

The bright red building, which still has a fire pole, had local stakeholders and preservationists fighting to save it since the Board of Fire Underwriters decided to sell the property and eliminate the patrol service in 2006.

Roma served at the fire patrol station in the 1970s, and lost his son, Keith, who worked at the station until 9/11.

“This was the last place my son left and never came back,” said Roma. “It should stay the way it is to commemorate the service of Fire Patrol officers who lost their lives.”